1. TIME OF THE PROPHET
The first prerequisite to a clear understanding and full appreciation of the prophecies of Isaiah, is a knowledge of his time, and of the different periods of his ministry. The first period was in the reigns of Uzziah (B.C. 811-759) and Jotham (759-743). The precise starting-point depends upon the view we take of ch. 6. But, in any case, Isaiah commenced his ministry towards the close of Uzziah’s reign, and laboured on throughout the sixteen years of the reign of Jotham. The first twenty-seven of the fifty-two years that Uzziah reigned run parallel to the last twenty-seven of the fortyone that Jeroboam II reigned (B.C. 825-784). Under Joash, and his son Jeroboam II, the kingdom of Israel passed through a period of outward glory, which surpassed, both in character and duration, any that it had reached before; and this was also the case with the kingdom of Judah under Uzziah and his son Jotham. As the glory of the one kingdom faded away, that of the other increased.
The bloom of the northern kingdom was destroyed and surpassed by that of the southern. But outward splendour contained within itself the fatal germ of decay and ruin in the one case as much as in the other; for prosperity degenerated into luxury, and the worship of Jehovah became stiffened into idolatry. It was in this last and longest time of Judah’s prosperity that Isaiah arose, with the mournful vocation to preach repentance without success, and consequently to have to announce the judgment of hardening and devastation, of the ban and of banishment. The second period of his ministry extended from the commencement of the reign of Ahaz to that of the reign of Hezekiah. Within these sixteen years three events occurred, which combined to bring about a new and calamitous turn in the history of Judah. In the place of the worship of Jehovah, which had been maintained with outward regularity and legal precision under Uzziah and Jotham; as soon as Ahaz ascended the throne, open idolatry was introduced of the most abominable description and in very various forms. The hostilities which began while Jotham was living, were perpetuated by Pekah the king of Israel and Rezin the king of Damascene Syria; and in the Syro-Ephraimitish war, an attack was made upon Jerusalem, with the avowed intention of bringing the Davidic rule to an end. Ahaz appealed to Tiglath-pileser, the king of Assyria, to help him out of these troubles. He thus made flesh his arm, and so entangled the nation of Jehovah with the kingdom of the world, that from that time forward it never truly recovered its independence again. The kingdom of the world was the heathen state in its Nimrodic form. Its perpetual aim was to extend its boundaries by constant accretions, till it had grown into a world-embracing colossus; and in order to accomplish this, it was ever passing beyond its natural boundaries, and coming down like an avalanche upon foreign nations, not merely for self-defence or revenge, but for the purpose of conquest also.
Assyria and Rome were the first and last links in that chain of oppression by the kingdom of the world, which ran through the history of Israel. Thus Isaiah, standing as he did on the very threshold of this new and allimportant turn in the history of his country, and surveying it with his telescopic glance, was, so to speak, the universal prophet of Israel. The third period of his ministry extended from the accession of Hezekiah to the fifteenth year of his reign. Under Hezekiah the nation rose, almost at the same pace at which it had previously declined under Ahaz. He forsook the ways of his idolatrous father, and restored the worship of Jehovah. The mass of the people, indeed, remained inwardly unchanged, but Judah had once more an upright king, who hearkened to the word of the prophet by his side-two pillars of the state, and men mighty in prayer (2 Chron 32:20).
When the attempt was afterwards made to break away from the Assyrian yoke, so far as the leading men and the great mass of the people were concerned, this was an act of unbelief originating merely in the same confident expectation of help from Egypt which had occasioned the destruction of the northern kingdom in the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign; but on the part of Hezekiah it was an act of faith and confident reliance upon Jehovah (2 Kings 18:7). Consequently, when Sennacherib, the successor of Shalmaneser, marched against Jerusalem, conquering and devastating the land as he advanced, and Egypt failed to send the promised help, the carnal defiance of the leaders and of the great mass of the people brought its own punishment. But Jehovah averted the worst extremity, by destroying the kernel of the Assyrian army in a single night; so that, as in the Syro-Ephraimitish war, Jerusalem itself was never actually besieged. Thus the faith of the king, and of the better portion of the nation, which rested upon the word of promise, had its reward. There was still a divine power in the state, which preserved it from destruction. The coming judgment, which nothing indeed could now avert, according to ch. 6, was arrested for a time, just when the last destructive blow would naturally have been expected. It was in this miraculous rescue, which Isaiah predicted, and for which he prepared the way, that the public ministry of the prophet culminated. Isaiah was the Amos of the kingdom of Judah, having the same fearful vocation to foresee and to declare the fact, that for Israel as a people and kingdom the time of forgiveness had gone by. But he was not also the Hosea of the southern kingdom; for it was not Isaiah, but Jeremiah, who received the solemn call to accompany the disastrous fate of the kingdom of Judah with the knell of prophetic denunciations.
Jeremiah was the Hosea of the kingdom of Judah. To Isaiah was given the commission, which was refused to his successor Jeremiah-namely, to press back once more, through the might of his prophetic word, coming as it did out of the depths of the strong spirit of faith, the dark night which threatened to swallow up his people at the time of the Assyrian judgment.
After the fifteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, he took no further part in public affairs; but he lived till the commencement of Manasseh’s reign, when, according to a credible tradition, to which there is an evident allusion in Heb 11:37 (“they were sawn asunder”), he fell a victim to the heathenism which became once more supreme in the land.
To this sketch of the times and ministry of the prophet we will add a review of the scriptural account of the four kings, under whom he laboured according to Isa 1:1; since nothing is more essential, as a preparation for the study of his book, than a minute acquaintance with these sections of the books of Kings and Chronicles. I. Historical Account of Uzziah-Jotham.
The account of Uzziah given in the book of Kings (2 Kings 15:1-7, to which we may add 14:21-22), like that of Jeroboam II, is not so full as we should have expected. After the murder of Amaziah, the people of Judah, as related in Isa 14:21-22, raised to the throne his son Azariah, probably not his first-born, who was then sixteen years old. It was he who built the Edomitish seaport town of Elath (for navigation and commerce), and made it a permanent possession of Judah (as in the time of Solomon). This notice is introduced, as a kind of appendix, at the close of Amaziah’s life and quite out of its chronological position, because the conquest of Elath was the crowning point of the subjugation of Edom by Amaziah, and not, as Thenius supposes, because it was Azariah’s first feat of arms, by which, immediately after his accession, he satisfied the expectations with which the army had made him king.
For the victories gained by this king over Edom and the other neighbouring nations cannot have been obtained at the time when Amos prophesied, which was about the tenth year of Uzziah’s reign. The attack made by Amaziah upon the kingdom of Israel, had brought the kingdom of Judah into a state of dependence upon the former, and almost of total ruin, from which it only recovered gradually, like a house that had fallen into decay.
The chronicler, following the text of the book of Kings, has introduced the notice concerning Elath in the same place (2 Chron 26:1,2: it is written Eloth, as in 1 Kings 9:26, and the Septuagint at 2 Kings 14:22). He calls the king Uzziahu; and it is only in the table of the kings of Judah, in Chron 3:12, that he gives the name as Azariah. The author of the book of Kings, according to our Hebrew text, calls him sometimes Azariah or Azariahu, sometimes Uzziah or Uzziahu; the Septuagint always gives the name as Azarias. The occurrence of the two names in both of the historical books is an indubitable proof that they are genuine. Azariah was the original name: out of this Uzziah was gradually formed by a significant elision; and as the prophetical books, from Isa 1:1 to Zech 14:5, clearly show, the latter was the name most commonly used.
Azariah, as we learn from the section in the book of Kings relating to the reign of this monarch (2 Kings 15:1-7), ascended the throne in the twentyseventh year of Jeroboam’s reign, that is to say, in the fifteenth year of his sole government, the twenty-seventh from the time when he shared the government with his father Joash, as we may gather from 2 Kings 13:13.
The youthful sovereign, who was only sixteen years of age, was the son of Amaziah by a native of Jerusalem, and reigned fifty-two years. He did what was pleasing in the sight of God, like his father Amaziah; i.e., although he did not come up to the standard of David, he was one of the better kings.
He fostered the worship of Jehovah, as prescribed in the law: nevertheless he left the high places (bamoth) standing; and while he was reigning, the people maintained in all its force the custom of sacrificing and burning incense upon the heights. He was punished by God with leprosy, which compelled him to live in a sick-house (chophshuth = chophshith: sickness) till the day of his death, whilst his son Jotham was over the palace, and conducted the affairs of government. He was buried in the city of David, and Jotham followed by him on the throne. This is all that the author of the book of Kings tells us concerning Azariah: for the rest, he refers to the annals of the kings of Judah. The section in the Chronicles relating to Uzziah (2 Chron 26) is much more copious: the writer had our book of Kings before him, as 26:3-4,21, clearly proves, and completed the defective notices from the source which he chiefly employed-namely, the much more elaborate midrash.
Uzziah, he says, was zealous in seeking Elohim in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in divine visions; and in the days when he sought Jehovah, God made him to prosper. Thus the prophet Zechariah, as a faithful pastor and counsellor, stood in the same relation to him in which Jehoiada the high priest had stood to Joash, Uzziah’s grandfather. The chronicler then enumerates singly the divine blessings which Uzziah enjoyed. First, his victories over the surrounding nations (passing over the victory over Edom, which had been already mentioned), viz.: (1) he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built towns b’ashdod and b’phelistim (i.e., in the conquered territory of Ashdod, and in Philistia generally); (2) God not only gave him victory over the Philistines, but also over the Arabians who dwelt in Gur-baal (an unknown place, which neither the LXX nor the Targumists could explain), and the Mehunim, probably a tribe of Arabia Petraea; (3) the Ammonites gave him presents in token of allegiance, and his name was honoured even as far as Egypt, to such an extent did his power grow.
Secondly, his buildings: he built towers (fortifications) above the corner gate, and above the valley gate, and above the Mikzoa, and fortified these (the weakest) portions of Jerusalem: he also built towers in the desert (probably in the desert between Beersheba and Gaza, to protect either the land, or the flocks and herds that were pasturing there); and dug many cisterns, for he had large flocks and herds both in the shephelah (the western portion of Southern Palestine) and in the mishor (the extensive pasture-land of the tribe territory of Reuben on the other side of the Jordan): he had also husbandmen and vine-dressers on the mountains, and in the fruitful fields, for he was a lover of agriculture. Thirdly, his wellorganized troops: he had an army of fighting men which consistedaccording to a calculation made by Jeiel the scribe, and Maaseiah, the officer under the superintendence of Nahaniah, one of the royal princes-of 2600 heads of families, who had 307,500 men under their command, “that made war with mighty power to help the king against the enemy.” Uzziah furnished these, according to all the divisions of the army, with shields, had spears, and helmet, and coats of mail, and bows, even with slinging-stones.
He also had ingenious slinging-machines (balistae) made in Jerusalem, to fix upon the towers and ramparts, for the purpose of shooting arrows and large stones. His name resounded far abroad, for he had marvellous success, so that he became very powerful.
Up to this point the chronicler has depicted the brighter side of Uzziah’s reign. His prosperous deeds and enterprises are all grouped together, so that it is doubtful whether the history within these several groups follows the chronological order or not. The light thrown upon the history of the times by the group of victories gained by Uzziah, would be worth twice as much if the chronological order were strictly observed. But even if we might assume that the victory over the Philistines preceded the victory over the Arabians of Gur-baal and the Mehunim, and this again the subjugation of Ammon, it would still be very uncertain what position the expedition against Edom-which was noticed by anticipation at the close of Amaziah’s life-occupied in relation to the other wars, and at what part of Uzziah’s reign the several wars occurred. All that can be affirmed is, that they preceded the closing years of his life, when the blessing of God was withdrawn from him.
The chronicler relates still further, in Isa 26:16, that as Uzziah became stronger and stronger, he fell into pride of heart, which led him to perform a ruinous act. He sinned against Jehovah his God, by forcing his way into the holy place of the temple, to burn incense upon the altar of incense, from the proud notion that royalty involved the rights of the priesthood, and that the priests were only the delegates and representatives of the king.
Then Azariah the high priest, and eighty other priests, brave men, hurried after him, and went up to him, and said, “This does not belong to thee, Uzziah, to burn incense of Jehovah; but to the priests, and sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary, for thou sinnest; and this is not for thine honour with Jehovah Elohim!” Then Uzziah was wroth, as he held the censer in his hand; and while he was so enraged against the priests, leprosy broke out upon his forehead in the sight of the priests, in the house of Jehovah, at the altar of incense.
When Azariah the high priest and the rest of the priests turned to him, behold, he was leprous in his forehead; and they brought him hurriedly away from thence-in fact, he himself hasted to go out-for Jehovah had smitten him. After having thus explained the circumstances which led to the king’s leprosy, the chronicler follows once more the text of the book of Kings-where the leprosy itself is also mentioned-and states that the king remained a leper until the day of his death, and lived in a sick-house, without ever being able to visit the temple again. But instead of the statement in the book of Kings, that he was buried in the city of David, the chronicler affirms more particularly that he was not placed in the king’s sepulchre; but, inasmuch as he was leprous, and would therefore have defiled it, was buried in the field near the sepulchre. But before introducing this conclusion to the history of Uzziah’s reign, and instead of referring to the annals of the kings of Judah, as the author of the book of Kings has done, or making such citations as we generally find, the author simply states, that “the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.”
It cannot possibly be either the prophecies of Isaiah of the time of Uzziah, or a certain historical portion of the original book of Isaiah’s predictions, to which reference is here made; for in that case we should expect the same notice at the close of the account of Jotham’s reign, or, at any rate, at the close of that of Ahaz (cf., Isa 27:7 and 28:26). It is also inconceivable that Isaiah’s book of predictions should have contained either a prophetical or historical account of the first acts of Uzziah, since Isaiah was later than Amos, later even than Hosea; and his public ministry did not commence till the close of his reign-in fact, not till the year of his death. Consequently the chronicler must refer to some historical work distinct from “the visions of Isaiah.” Just as he mentions two historical works within the first epoch of the divided kingdom, viz., Shemaiah’s and Iddo’s-the former of which referred more especially to the entire history of Rehoboam, and the latter to the history of Abijah-and then again, in the second epoch, an historical work by Jehu ben Hanani, which contained a complete history of Jehoshaphat from the beginning to the end; so here, in the third epoch, he speaks of Isaiah ben Amoz, the greatest Judaean prophet of this epoch as the author of a special history of Uzziah, which was not incorporated in his “visions” like the history of Hezekiah (cf., 32:32), but formed an independent work.
Besides this prophetical history of Uzziah, there was also an annalistic history, as 2 Kings 15:6 clearly shows; and it is quite possible that the annals of Uzziah were finished when Isaiah commenced his work, and that they were made use of by him. For the leading purpose of the prophetical histories was to exhibit the inward and divine connection between the several outward events, which the annals simply registered. The historical writings of a prophet were only the other side of his more purely prophetic work. In the light of the Spirit of God, the former looked deep into the past, the latter into the present. Both of them had to do with the ways of divine justice and grace, and set forth past and present, alike in view of the true goal, in which these two ways coincide.
Jotham succeeded Uzziah, after having acted as regent, or rather as viceroy, for several years (2 Kings 15:32-38). He ascended the throne in the second year of Pekah king of Israel, in the twenty-fifth year of his age, and reigned for sixteen years in a manner which pleased God, though he still tolerated the worship upon high places, as his father had done. He built the upper gate of the temple. The author has no sooner written this than he refers to the annals, simply adding, before concluding with the usual formula concerning his burial in the city of David, that in those days, i.e., towards the close of Jotham’s reign, the hostilities of Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel commenced, as a judgment from God upon Judah. The chronicler, however, makes several valuable additions to the text of the book of Kings, which he has copied word for word down to the notice concerning the commencement of the Syro-Ephraimitish hostilities (vid., Chron 27).
We do not include in this the statement that Jotham did not force his way into the holy place in the temple: this is simply intended as a limitation of the assertion made by the author of the book of Kings as to the moral equality of Jotham and Uzziah, and in favour of the former. The words, “the people continued in their destructive course,” also contain nothing new, but are simply the shorter expression used in the Chronicles to indicate the continuance of the worship of the high places during Jotham’s reign. But there is something new in what the chronicler appends to the remark concerning the building of the upper gate of the temple, which is very bold and abrupt as it stands in the book of Kings, viz., “On the wall of the Ophel he built much (i.e., he fortified this southern spur of the temple hill still more strongly), and put towns in the mountains of Judah, and erected castles and towers in the forests (for watchtowers and defences against hostile attacks). He also fought with the king of the Ammonites; and when conquered, they were obliged to give him that year and the two following a hundred talents of silver, ten thousand cors of wheat, and the same quantity of barley. Jotham grew stronger and stronger, because he strove to walk before Jehovah his God.” The chronicler breaks off with this general statement, and refers, for the other memorabilia of Jotham, and all his wars and enterprises, to the book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.
This is what the two historical books relate concerning the royal pair- Uzziah-Jotham-under whom the kingdom of Judah enjoyed once more a period of great prosperity and power-”the greatest since the disruption, with the exception of that of Jehoshaphat; the longest during the whole period of its existence, the last before its overthrow” (Caspari). The sources from which the two historical accounts were derived were the annals: they were taken directly from them by the author of the book of Kings, indirectly by the chronicler. No traces can be discovered of the work written by Isaiah concerning Uzziah, although it may possibly be employed in the midrash of the chronicler. There is an important supplement to the account given by the chronicler in the casual remark made in 1 Chron 5:17, to the effect that Jotham had a census taken of the tribe of Gad, which was settled on the other side of the Jordan. We see from this, that in proportion as the northern kingdom sank down from the eminence to which it had attained under Jeroboam II, the supremacy of Judah over the land to the east of the Jordan was renewed.
But we may see from Amos, that it was only gradually that the kingdom of Judah revived under Uzziah, and that at first, like the wall of Jerusalem, which was partially broken down by Joash, it presented the aspect of a house full of fissures, and towards Israel in a very shaky condition; also that the Ephraimitish ox- (or calf-) worship of Jehovah was carried on at Beersheba, and therefore upon Judaean soil, and that Judah did not keep itself free from the idolatry which it had inherited from the fathers (Amos 2:4-5). Again, assuming that Amos commenced his ministry at about the tenth year of Uzziah’s reign, we may learn at least so much from him with regard to Uzziah’s victories over Edom, Philistia, and Ammon, that they were not gained till after the tenth year of his reign. Hosea, on the other hand, whose ministry commenced at the very earliest when that of Amos was drawing to a close, and probably not till the last five years of Jeroboam’s reign, bears witness to, and like Amos condemns, the participation in the Ephraimitish worship, into which Judah had been drawn under Uzziah-Jotham. But with him Beersheba is not referred to any more as an Israelitish seat of worship (4:15); Israel does not interfere any longer with the soil of Judah, as in the time of Amos, since Judah has again become a powerful and well-fortified kingdom (Isa 8:14, cf., 1:7). But, at the same time, it has become full of carnal trust and manifold apostasy from Jehovah (5:10; 12:1); so that, although receiving at first a miraculous deliverance from God (1:7), it is ripening for the same destruction as Israel (ch. 6:11).
This survey of the kingdom of Judah in the time of Uzziah-Jotham by the Israelitish prophet, we shall find repeated in Isaiah; for the same spirit animates and determines the verdicts of the prophets of both kingdoms. II. Historical Account of Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimitish War.
The account of Ahaz, given in the book of Kings and in the Chronicles (2 Kings 16; 2 Chron 28:1), may be divided into three parts: viz., first, the general characteristics; secondly, the account of the Syro-Ephraimitish war; and thirdly, the desecration of the temple by Ahaz, more especially by setting up an altar made after the model of that at Damascus. f2 (1.) 2 Kings 16:1-4. Ahaz ascended the throne in the seventeenth year of Pekah. He was then twenty years old (or twenty-five according to the LXX at 2 Chron 28:1, which is much more probable, as he would otherwise have had a son, Hezekiah, in the tenth years of his age), and he reigned sixteen years.
He did not please God as his forefather David had done, but took the way of the kings of Israel, and even made his son pass through the fire (i.e., burnt him in honour of Moloch), according to the abominations of the (Canaanitish) people whom Jehovah had driven out before Israel; and he offered sacrifice and burnt incense upon the high places, and upon the hills, and under every green tree. The Deuteronomic colouring of this passage is very obvious. The corresponding passage in the Chronicles is 2 Chron 28:1-4, where the additional fact is mentioned, that he even made molten images for Baalim, and burnt incense in the valley of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire (“his children,” a generic plural like “the kings” in v. 16, and “the sons” in 2 Chron 24:25: “burnt,” r[eb]Yæwæ , unless the reading rbe[\Yæwæ be adopted, as it has been by the LXX, “he caused to pass through.”) (2.) 2 Kings 16:5-9.
Then (in the time of this idolatrous king Ahaz) the following well-known and memorable event occurred: Rezin the king of Aram, and Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel, went up against Jerusalem to war, and besieged Ahaz, “but could not overcome him,” i.e., as we may gather from Isa 7:1, they were not able to get possession of Jerusalem, which was the real object of their expedition. “At that time” (the author of the book of Kings proceeds to observe), viz., at the time of this Syro-Ephraimitish war, Rezin king of Aram brought Elath to Aram (i.e., wrested again from the kingdom of Judah the seaport town which Uzziah had recovered a short time before), and drove the Judaeans out of Elath (sic); and Aramaeans came to Elath and settled there unto this day. Thenius, who starts with the needless assumption that the conquest of Elath took place subsequently to the futile attempt to take Jerusalem, gives the preference to the reading of the Keri, “and Edomites (Edomina) came to Elath,” and would therefore correct l’aram (to Aram) into l’edom (to Edom). “Rezin,” he says, “destroyed the work of Uzziah, and gave Edom its liberty again, in the hope that at some future time he might have the support of Edom, and so operate against Judah with greater success.”
But, in answer to this, it may be affirmed that such obscure forms as ‘arowmiym for µWr are peculiar to this account, and that the words do not denote the restoration of a settlement, but mention the settlement as a new and remarkable fact. I therefore adopt Caspari’s conclusion, that the Syrian king transplanted a Syrian colony of traders to Elath, to secure the command of the maritime trade with all its attendant advantages; and this colony held its ground there for some time after the destruction of the Damascene kingdom, as the expression “to this day,” found in the earlier source of the author of the book of Kings, clearly implies.
But if the conquest of Elath fell within the period of the Syro-Ephraimitish war, which commenced towards the end of Jotham’s reign, and probably originated in the bitter feelings occasioned by the almost total loss to Judah of the country on the east of the Jordan, and which assumed the form of a direct attack upon Jerusalem itself soon after Ahaz ascended the throne; the question arises, How was it that this design of the two allied kings upon Jerusalem was not successful? The explanation is given in the account contained in the book of Kings (vv. 7-9): “Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pelezer (sic) the king of Asshur, to say to him, I am thy servant, and thy son; come up, and save me out of the hand of Aram, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, who have risen up against me. And Ahaz took the silver and the gold that was found in the house of Jehovah, and in the treasures of the palace, and sent it for a present to the king of Asshur. The king hearkened to his petition; and went against Damascus, and took it, and carried the inhabitants into captivity to Kir, and slew Rezin.” And what did Tiglath-pileser do with Pekah? The author of the book of Kings has already related, in the section referring to Pekah (2 Kings 15:29), that he punished him by taking away the whole of the country to the east of the Jordan, and a large part of the territory on this side towards the north, and carried the inhabitants captive to Assyria. This section must be supplied here-an example of the great liberty which the historians allowed themselves in the selection and arrangement of their materials.
The anticipation in v. 5 is also quite in accordance with their usual style: the author first of all states that the expedition against Jerusalem was an unsuccessful one, and then afterwards proceeds to mention the reason for the failure-namely, the appeal of Ahaz to Assyria for help. For I also agree with Caspari in this, that the Syrians the Ephraimites were unable to take Jerusalem, because the tidings reached them, that Tiglath-pileser had been appealed to by Ahaz and was coming against them; and they were consequently obliged to raise the siege and made a speedy retreat.
The account in the Chronicles (2 Chron 28:5-21) furnishes us with full and extensive details, with which to supplement the very condensed notice of the book of Kings. When we compare the two accounts, the question arises, whether they refer to two different expeditions (and if so, which of the two refers to the first expedition and which to the second), or whether they both relate to the same expedition. Let us picture to ourselves first of all the facts as given by the chronicler. “Jehovah, his God,” he says of Ahaz, “delivered him into the hand of the king of Aram, and they (the Aramaeans) smote him, and carried off from him a great crowd of captives, whom they brought to Damascus; and he was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who inflicted upon him a terrible defeat.” This very clearly implies, as Caspari has shown, that although the two kings set the conquest of Jerusalem before them as a common end at which to aim, and eventually united for the attainment of this end, yet for a time they acted separately. We are not told here in what direction Rezin’s army went. But we know from 2 Kings 16:6 that it marched to Idumaea, which it could easily reach from Damascus by going through the territory of his allynamely, the country of the two tribes and a half. The chronicler merely describes the simultaneous invasion of Judaea by Pekah, but he does this with all the greater fulness. “Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah a hundred and twenty thousand in one day, all valiant men, because they forsook Jehovah, the God of their fathers. Zichri, an Ephraimitish hero, slew Ma>aseauJ the king’s son, and Azrikam the governor of the palace, and Elkanah, the second in rank to the king. And the Israelites carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand women, boys, and girls, and took away much spoil from them, and brought this booty to Samaria.” As the Jewish army numbered at that time three hundred thousand men (2 Chron 25:5; 26:13), and the war was carried on with the greatest animosity, these numbers need not be regarded as either spurious or exaggerated. Moreover, the numbers, which the chronicler found in the sources he employed, merely contained the estimate of the enormous losses sustained, as generally adopted at that time of the side of Judah itself.
This bloody catastrophe was followed by a very fine and touching occurrence. A prophet of Jehovah, named Oded (a contemporary of Hosea, and a man of kindred spirit), went out before the army as it came back to Samaria, and charged the victors to release the captives of their brother nation, which had been terribly punished in God’s wrath, and by so doing to avert the wrath of God which threatened them as well. Four noble Ephraimitish heads of tribes, whose names the chronicler has preserved, supported the admonition of the prophet. The army then placed the prisoners and the booty at the disposal of the princes and the assembled people: “And these four memorable men rose up, and took the prisoners, and all their naked ones they covered with the booty, and clothed and shod them, and gave them to eat and drink, and anointed them, and conducted as many of them as were cripples upon asses, and brought them to Jericho the palm-city, to the neighbourhood of their brethren, and returned to Samaria.” Nothing but the rudest scepticism could ever seek to cast a slur upon this touching episode, the truth of which is so conspicuous. There is nothing strange in the fact that so horrible a massacre should be followed by a strong manifestation of the fraternal love, which had been forcibly suppressed, but was not rekindled by the prophet’s words. We find an older fellow-piece to this in the prevention of a fratricidal war by Shemaiah, as described in 1 Kings 12:22-24.
Now, when the chronicler proceeds to observe in v. 16, that “at that time Ahaz turned for help to the royal house of Assyria” (malce asshur), in all probability this took place at the time when he had sustained two severe defeats, one at the hands of Pekah to the north of Jerusalem; and another from Rezin in Idumaea. The two battles belong to the period before the siege of Jerusalem, and the appeal for help from Assyria falls between the battles and the siege. The chronicler then mentions other judgments which fell upon the king in his estrangement from God, viz.: (1) “Moreover the Edomites came, smote Judah, and carried away captives;” possibly while the Syro-Ephraimitish war was still going on, after they had welcomed Rezin as their deliverer, had shaken off the Jewish yoke, and had supported the Syrian king against Judah in their own land; (2) the Philistines invaded the low land (shephelah) and the south land (negeb) of Judah, and took several towns, six of which the chronicler mentions by name, and settled in them; for “Jehovah humbled Judah because of Ahaz the king of Israel (an epithet with several sarcastic allusions), for he acted without restraint in Judah, and most wickedly against Jehovah.” The breaking away of the Philistines from the Jewish dominion took place, according to Caspari, in the time of the Syro- Ephraimitish war. The position of v. 18 in the section reaching from v. 5 to v. 21 (viz., v. 18, invasion of the Philistines; v. 17, that of the Edomites) renders this certainly very probable, though it is not conclusive, as Caspari himself admits.
In vv. 20, 21, the chronicler adds an appendix to the previous list of punishments: Tiglath-Pilnezer (sic) the king of Asshur came upon him, and oppressed him instead of strengthening him; for Ahaz had plundered both temple and palace, and given the treasures to the king of Asshur, without receiving any proper help in return. Thenius disputes the rendering, “He strengthened him not” (cf., Ezek 30:21); but Caspari has shown that it is quite in accordance with the facts of the case. Tiglath-pileser did not bring Ahaz any true help; for what he proceeded to do against Syria and Israel was not taken in hand in the interests of Ahaz, but to extend his own imperial dominion. He did not assist Ahaz to bring ether the Edomites or the Philistines into subjection again, to say nothing of compensating him for his losses with either Syrian or Ephraimitish territory.
Nor was it only that he did not truly help him: he really oppressed him, by making him a tributary vassal instead of a free and independent prince-a relation to Asshur which, according to many evident signs, was the direct consequence of his appeal for help, and which was established, at any rate, at the very commencement of Hezekiah’s reign. Under what circumstances this took place we cannot tell; but it is very probable that, after the victories over Rezin and Pekah, a second sum of money was demanded by Tiglath-pileser, and then from that time forward a yearly tribute. The expression used by the chronicler-”he came upon him”-seems, in fact, to mean that he gave emphasis to this demand by sending a detachment of his army; even if we cannot take it, as Caspari does, in a rhetorical rather than a purely historical sense, viz., as signifying that, “although Tiglath-pileser came, as Ahaz desired, his coming was not such as Ahaz desired, a coming to help and benefit, but rather to oppress and injure.” (3.) The third part of the two historical accounts describes the pernicious influence which the alliance with Tiglath-pileser exerted upon Ahaz, who was already too much inclined to idolatry (2 Kings 16:10-18). After Tiglath-pileser had marched against the ruler of Damascus, and delivered Ahaz from the more dangerous of his two adversaries (and possibly from both of them), Ahaz went to Damascus to present his thanks in person.
There he saw the altar (which was renowned as a work of art), and sent an exact model to Uriah the high priest, who had an altar constructed like it by the time that the king returned. As soon as Ahaz came back he went up to this altar and offered sacrifice, thus officiating as priest himself (probably as a thanksgiving for the deliverance he had received). The brazen altar (of Solomon), which Uriah had moved farther forward to the front of the temple building, he put farther back again, placing it close to the north side of the new one (that the old one might not appear to have the slightest preference over the new), and commanded the high priest to perform the sacrificial service in future upon the new great altar; adding, at the same time, “And (as for) the brazen altar, I will consider (what shall be done with it).” “And king Ahaz,” it is stated still further, “broke out the borders of the stools, and took away the basons; and the sea he took down from the oxen that bare it, and set it upon a stone pedestal (that took the place of the oxen). And the covered sabbath-hall which had been built in the temple, and the outer king’s entrance, he removed into the temple of Jehovah before the king of Assyria.” Thenius explains this as meaning “he altered them” (taking away the valuable ornaments from both), that he might be able to take with him to Damascus the necessary presents for the king of Asshur. Ewald’s explanation, however, is better than this, and more in accordance with the expression “before,” viz., “in order that he might be able to secure the continued favour of the dreaded Assyrian king, by continually sending him fresh presents.”
But bsh does not mean to alter, and h tyiBæ = h tybb would be an unmeaning addition in the wrong place, which would only obscure the sense. If the great alterations mentioned in v. 17 were made for the purpose of sending presents to the king of Assyria with or from the things that were removed, those described in v. 18 were certainly made from fear of the king; and, what appears most probable to me, not to remove the two splendid erections from the sight of the Assyrians, nor to preserve their being used in the event of an Assyrian occupation of Jerusalem, but in order that his relation to the great king of Assyria might not be disturbed by his appearing as a zealous worshipper of Jehovah. They were changes made from fear of man and servility, and were quite in keeping with the hypocritical, insincere, and ignoble character of Ahaz. The parallel passage in the Chronicles is 2 Chron 28:22-25. “In the time of his distress,” says the chronicler in his reflective and rhetorical style, “he sinned still more grievously against Jehovah: he, king Ahaz. He sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, who had smitten him. For the gods of the kings of Aram, he said, helped them; I will sacrifice to them, that they may also help me. And they brought him and all Israel to ruin. And Ahaz collected together the vessels of the house of God, and cut them in pieces, and shut the doors of the house of Jehovah, and made himself altars in ever corner of Jerusalem. And in every town of Judah he erected high places to burn incense to other gods, and stirred up the displeasure of Jehovah the God of his fathers.” Thenius regards this passage as an exaggerated paraphrase of the parallel passage in the book of Kings, and as resting upon a false interpretation of the latter.
But the chronicler does not affirm that Ahaz dedicated the new altar to the gods of Damascus, but rather that in the time of the Syro-Ephraimitish war he attempted to secure for himself the same success in war as the Syrians had obtained, by worshipping their gods. The words of Ahaz, which are reported by him, preclude any other interpretation. He there states-what by no means contradicts the book of Kings-that Ahaz laid violent hands upon the furniture of the temple. All the rest-namely, the allusion to his shutting the temple-gates, and erecting altars and high places on every hand-is a completion of the account in the book of Kings, the historical character of which it is impossible to dispute, if we bear in mind that the Syro- Ephraimitish war took place at the commencement of the reign of Ahaz, who was only sixteen years old at the time.
The author of the book of Kings closes the history of the reign of Ahaz with a reference to the annals of the kings of Judah, and with the remark that he was buried in the city of David (2 Kings 16:19-20). The chronicler refers to the book of the kings of Judah and Israel, and observes that he was indeed buried in the city (LXX “in the city of David”), but not in the king’s sepulchre (2 Chron 28:26-27). The source employed by the chronicler was his midrash of the entire history of the kings; from which he made extracts, with the intention of completing the text of our book of Kings, to which he appended his work. His style was formed after that of the annals, whilst that of the author of the book of Kings is formed after Deuteronomy. But from what source did the author of the book of Kings make his extracts?
The section relating to Ahaz has some things quite peculiar to itself, as compared with the rest of the book, viz., a liking for obscure forms, such as Eloth (v. 6), hakkomim (v. 7), Dummesek (v. 10), and Aromim (v. 6); the name Tiglath-peleser; ãKæ instead of dy; , which is customary elsewhere; the rare and more colloquial term jehudim (Jews); the inaccurate construction twnwkmh twrgsmhAra (v. 17); and the verb rQeBæ (to consider, v. 15), which does not occur anywhere else.
These peculiarities may be satisfactorily explained on the assumption that the author employed the national annals; and that, as these annals had been gradually composed by the successive writings of many different persons, whilst there was an essential uniformity in the mode in which the history was written, there was also of necessity a great variety in the style of composition. But is the similarity between 2 Kings 16:5 and Isa 7:1 reconcilable with this annalistic origin? The resemblance in question certainly cannot be explained, as Thenius supposes, from the fact that Isa 7:1 was also taken from the national annals; but rather on the ground assigned by Caspari-namely, that the author of the Chronicles had not only the national annals before him, but also the book of Isaiah’s prophecies, to which he directs his readers’ attention by commencing the history of the Syro-Ephraimitish war in the words of the portion relating to Ahaz. The design of the two allies, as we know from the further contents of Isa 1, was nothing less than to get possession of Jerusalem, to overthrow the Davidic government there, and establish in its stead, in the person of a certain ben- Taab’êl (“son of Tabeal,” Isa 7:6), a newly created dynasty, that would be under subjection to themselves. The failure of this intention is the thought that is briefly indicated in 2 Kings 16:5 and Isa 7:1. III. Historical Account of Hezekiah, more especially of the first six years of his reign.
The account given of Hezekiah in the book of Kings is a far more meagre one than we should expect to find, when we have taken out the large section relating to the period of the Assyrian catastrophe (2 Kings 18:13- 20:19), which is also found in the book of Isaiah, and which will come under review in the commentary on Isa 36-39. All that is then left to the author of the book of Kings is 18:1-12 and 20:20,21; and in these two paragraphs, which enclose the section of Isaiah, there are only a few annalistic elements worked up in Deuteronomical style. Hezekiah began to reign in the third year of Hosea king of Israel. He was twenty-five years old when he came to the throne, and reigned twenty-nine years. He was a king after the model of David. He removed the high places, broke in pieces the statutes, cut down the Asheroth, and pounded the serpent, which had been preserved from the time of Moses, and had become an object of idolatrous worship. In his confidence in Jehovah he was unequalled by any of his followers or predecessors. The allusion here is to that faith of his, by which he broke away from the tyranny of Asshur, and also recovered his supremacy over the Philistines. We have no means of deciding in what years of Hezekiah’s reign these two events-the revolt from Asshur, and the defeat of the Philistines-occurred. The author proceeds directly afterwards, with a studious repetition of what he has already stated in ch. 17 in the history of Hosea’s reign, to describe Shalmanassar’s expedition against Israel in the fourth year of Hezekiah’s reign (the seventh of Hosea’s), and the fall of Samaria, which took place, after a siege of three years, in the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign, and the ninth of Hosea’s. But as Shalmanassar made no attack upon Judah at the time when he put an end to the kingdom of Israel, the revolt of Hezekiah cannot have taken place till afterwards. But with regard to the victory over the Philistines, there is nothing in the book of Kings to help us even to a negative conclusion. In 20:20, 21, the author brings his history rapidly to a close, and merely refers such as may desire to know more concerning Hezekiah, especially concerning his victories and aqueducts, to the annals of the kings of Judah.
The chronicler merely gives an extract from the section of Isaiah; but he is all the more elaborate in the rest. All that he relates in 2 Chron 29:2-31 is a historical commentary upon the good testimony given to king Hezekiah in the book of Kings (2 Kings 18:3), which the chronicler places at the head of his own text in 29:2. Even in the month Nisan of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah re-opened the gates of the temple, had it purified from the defilement consequent upon idolatry, and appointed a re-consecration of the purified temple, accompanied with sacrifice, music, and psalms (Isa 29:3ff.). Hezekiah is introduced here (a fact of importance in relation to Isa 38) as the restorer of “the song of the Lord” (Shir Jehovah), i.e., of liturgical singing. The Levitical and priestly music, as introduced and organized by David, Gad, and Nathan, was heard again, and Jehovah was praised once more in the words of David the king and Asaph the seer.
The chronicler then relates in ch. 30 how Hezekiah appointed a solemn passover in the second month, to which even inhabitants of the northern kingdom, who might be still in the land, were formally and urgently invited.
It was an after-passover, which was permitted by the law, as the priests had been busy with the purification of the temple in the first month, and therefore had been rendered unclean themselves: moreover, there would not have been sufficient time for summoning the people to Jerusalem. The northern tribes as a whole refused the invitation in the most scornful manner, but certain individuals accepted it with penitent hearts. It was a feast of joy, such as had not been known since the time of Solomon (this statement is not at variance with 2 Kings 23:22), affording, as it did, once more a representation and assurance of that national unity which had been rent in twain ever since the time of Rehoboam. Caspari has entered into a lengthened investigation as to the particular year of Hezekiah’s reign in which this passover was held.
He agrees with Keil, that it took place after the fall of Samaria and the deportation of the people by Shalmanassar; but he does not feel quite certain of his conclusion. The question itself, however, is one that ought not to be raised at all, if we think the chronicler a trustworthy authority. He places this passover most unquestionably in the second month of the first year of Hezekiah’s reign; and there is no difficulty occasioned by this, unless we regard what Tiglath-pileser had done to Israel as of less importance than it actually was. The population that was left behind was really nothing more than a remnant; and, moreover, the chronicler draws an evident contrast between tribes and individuals, so that he was conscious enough that there were still whole tribes of the northern kingdom who were settled in their own homes.
He then states in Isa 31:1, that the inhabitants of the towns of Judah (whom he calls “all Israel,” because a number of emigrant Israelites had settled there) went forth, under the influence of the enthusiasm consequent upon the passover they had celebrated, and broke in pieces the things used in idolatrous worship throughout both kingdoms; and in 31:2ff., that Hezekiah restored the institutions of divine worship that had been discontinued, particularly those relating to the incomes of the priests and Levites. Everything else that he mentions in Isaiah 32:1-26,31, belongs to a later period than the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign; and so far as it differs from the section in Isaiah, which is repeated in the book of Kings, it is a valuable supplement, more especially with reference to Isa 22:8-11 (which relates to precautions taken in the prospect of the approaching Assyrian siege). But the account of Hezekiah’s wealth in ch.Isaiah 32:27-29 extends over the whole of his reign. The notice respecting the diversion of the upper Gihon (ch. Isaiah 32:30) reaches rather into the period of the return after the Assyrian catastrophe, than into the period before it; but nothing can be positively affirmed.
Having thus obtained the requisite acquaintance with the historical accounts which bear throughout upon the book of Isaiah, so far as it has for its starting-point and object the history of the prophet’s own times, we will now turn to the book itself, for the purpose of acquiring such an insight into its general plan as is necessary to enable us to make a proper division of our own work of exposition. BOOK OF ISAIAH ISAIAH 1:1 In passing to our exposition of the book, the first thing which strikes us is its traditional title-Yeshaiah (Isaiah). In the book itself, and throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, the prophet is called Yeshayahu; and the shorter form is found in the latest books as the name of other persons. It was a common thing in the very earliest times for the shorter forms of such names to be used interchangeably with the longer; but in later times the shorter was the only form employed, and for this reason it was the one adopted in the traditional title. The name is a compound one, and signifies “Jehovah’s salvation.” The prophet was conscious that it was not merely by accident that he bore this name; for [væy, (he shall save) and h[;Wvy] (salvation) are among his favourite words. It may be said, in fact, that he lived and moved altogether in the coming salvation, which was to proceed from Jehovah, and would be realized hereafter, when Jehovah should come at last to His people as He had never come before.
This salvation was the goal of the sacred history (Heilsgeschichte, literally, history of salvation); and Jehovah was the peculiar name of God in relation to that history. It denotes “the existing one,” not however “the always existing,” i.e., eternal, as Bunsen and the Jewish translators render it, but “existing evermore,” i.e., filling all history, and displaying His glory therein in grace and truth. The ultimate goal of this historical process, in which God was ever ruling as the absolutely free One, according to His own selfassertion in Ex 3:14, was true and essential salvation, proceeding outwards from Israel, and eventually embracing all mankind. In the name of the prophet the tetragrammaton hwO;hy] is contracted into yhw (yh) by the dropping of the second h. We may easily see from this contraction that the name of God was pronounced with an a sound, so that it was either called Yahveh, or rather Yahaveh, or else Yahvaah, or rather Yahavaah.
According to Theodoret, it was pronounced Babe (Yahaveh) by the Samaritans; and it is written in the same way in the list of the names of the Deity given in Epiphanius. That the ah sound was also a customary pronunciation, may not only be gathered from such names as Jimnah, Jimrah, Jishvah, Jishpah (compare Jithlah, the name of a place), but is also expressly attested by the ancient variations, Jao, Jeuo, Jo (Jer 23:6, LXX), on the one hand, and on the other hand by the mode of spelling adopted by Origen (Jaoia) and Theodoret (Aia, not only in quaest, in Ex. §15, but also in Fab. haeret. v. 4: “Aia signifies the existing one; it was pronounced thus by Hebrews, but the Samaritans call it Jabai, overlooking the force of the word”).
The dull-sounding long a could be expressed by omega quite as well as by alpha. Isidor follows these and similar testimonies, and says (Orig. vii. 7), “The tetragrammaton consisted of ia written twice (ia, ia), and with this reduplication it constituted the unutterable and glorious name of God.”
The Arabic form adopted by the Samaritans leaves it uncertain whether it is to be pronounced Yahve or Yahva. They wrote to Job Ludolf (in the Epistola Samaritana Sichemitarum tertia, published by Bruns, 1781), in opposition to the statement of Theodoret, that they pronounced the last syllable with damma; that is to say, they pronounced the name Yahavoh (Yahvoh), which was the form in which it was written in the last century by Velthusen, and also by Muffi in his Disegno di lezioni e di ricerche sulla lingua Ebraica (Pavia, 1792). The pronunciation Jehovah (Yehovah) arose out of a combination of the keri and the chethib, and has only become current since the time of the Reformation. Genebrard denounces it in his Commentary upon the Psalms with the utmost vehemence, in opposition to Beza, as an intolerable innovation. “Ungodly violators of what is most ancient,” he says, “profaning and transforming the unutterable name of God, would read Jova or Jehova-a new, barbarous, fictitious, and irreligious word, that savours strongly of the Jove of the heathen.” Nevertheless his Jehova (Jova) forced its way into general adoption, and we shall therefore retain it, notwithstanding the fact that the o sound is decidedly wrong. To return, then: the prophet’s name signifies “Jehovah’s salvation.” In the Septuagint it is always written Aeesai’as, with a strong aspirate; in the Vulgate it is written Isaias, and sometimes Esaias.
In turning from the outward to the inward title, which is contained in the book itself, there are two things to be observed at the outset: (1.) The division of the verses indicated by soph pasuk is an arrangement for which the way was prepared as early as the time of the Talmud, and which was firmly established in the Masoretic schools; and consequently it reaches as far back as the extreme limits of the middle ages-differing in this respect from the division of verses in the New Testament. The arrangement of the chapters, however, with the indications of the separate sections of the prophetic collection, is of no worth to us, simply because it is not older than the thirteenth century. According to some authorities, it originated with Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury (†1227); whilst others attribute it to Cardinal Hugo of St. Caro (†1262). It is only since the fifteenth century that it has been actually adopted in the text. (2.) The small ring or star at the commencement points to the footnote, which affirms that Isa 1:1-28 (where we find the same sign again) was the haphtarah, or concluding pericope, taken from the prophets, which was read on the same Sabbath as the parashah from the Pentateuch, in Deut 1:1ff. It was, as we shall afterwards see, a very thoughtful principle of selection which led to the combination of precisely these two lessons.
Verse 1. Title of the collection, as given in v. 1: “Seeing of Jesha’-yahu, son of Amoz, which he saw over Judah and Jerusalem in the days of ‘Uzziyahu, Jotham, Ahaz, and Yehizkiyahu, the kings of Judah.” Isaiah is called the “son of Amoz.” There is no force in the old Jewish doctrine (b.
Megilla 15a), which was known to the fathers, that whenever the name of a prophet’s father is given, it is a proof that the father was also a prophet.
And we are just as incredulous about another old tradition, to the effect that Amoz was the brother of Amaziah, the father and predecessor of Uzziah (b. Sota 10b). There is some significance in this tradition, however, even if it is not true. There is something royal in the nature and bearing of Isaiah throughout. He speaks to kings as if he himself were a king. He confronts with majesty the magnates of the nation and of the imperial power. In his peculiar style, he occupies the same place among the prophets as Solomon among the kings.
Under all circumstances, and in whatever state of mind, he is completely master of his materials-simple, yet majestic in his style-elevated, yet without affectation-and beautiful, though unadorned. But this regal character had its roots somewhere else than in the blood. All that can be affirmed with certainty is, that Isaiah was a native of Jerusalem; for notwithstanding his manifold prophetic missions, we never find him outside Jerusalem. There he lived with his wife and children, and, as we may infer from Isa 22:1, and the mode of his intercourse with king Hezekiah, down in the lower city. And there he laboured under the four kings named in v. 1, viz., Uzziah (who reigned 52 years, 811-759), Jotham (16 years, 759-743), Ahaz (16 years, 743-728), and Hezekiah (29 years, 728-699). The four kings are enumerated without a Vav cop.; there is the same asyndeton enumerativum as in the titles to the books of Hosea and Micah. Hezekiah is there called Yehizkiyah, the form being almost the same as ours, with the simple elision of the concluding sound.
The chronicler evidently preferred the fullest form, at the commencement as well as the termination. Roorda imagines that the chronicler derived this ill-shaped form from the three titles, were it is a copyist’s error for hY;qiz]ji or hY;qiz]ji ; but the estimable grammarian has overlooked the fact that the same form is found in Jer 15:4 and 2 Kings 20:10, where no such error of the pen can have occurred. Moreover, it is not an ill-shaped form, if, instead of deriving it from the piel, as Roorda does, we derive it from the kal of the verb “strong is Jehovah,” an imperfect noun with a connecting i, which is frequently met with in proper names from verbal roots, such as Jesimiël from sim, 1 Chron 4:36: vid., Olshausen, §277, p. 621). Under these four kings Isaiah laboured, or, as it is expressed in v. 1, saw the sight which is committed to writing in the book before us.
Of all the many Hebrew synonyms for seeing, hz;j; (cf., cernere, kri>nein , and the Sanscrit and Persian kar, which is founded upon the radical notion of cutting and separating) is the standing general expression used to denote prophetic perception, whether the form in which the divine revelation was made to the prophet was in vision or by word. In either case he saw it, because he distinguished this divine revelation from his own conceptions and thoughts by means of that inner sense, which is designated by the name of the noblest of all the five external senses. From this verb chazah there came both the abstract chazon, seeing, and the more concrete chizzayon, a sight (visum), which is a stronger from of chizyon (from chazi = chazah).
The noun chazon is indeed used to denote a particular sight (comp. Isa 29:7 with Job 20:8; 33:15), inasmuch as it consists in seeing (visio); but here in the title of the book of Isaiah the abstract meaning passes over into the collective idea of the sight or vision in all its extent, i.e., the sum and substance of all that was seen.
It is a great mistake, therefore, for any one to argue from the use of the word chazon (vision), that v. 1a was originally nothing more than the heading to the first prophecy, and that it was only by the addition of v. 1b that it received the stamp of a general title to the whole book. There is no force in the argument. Moreover, the chronicler knew the book of Isaiah by this title (2 Chron 32:32); and the titles of other books of prophecy, such as Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Zephaniah, are very similar. A more plausible argument in favour of the twofold origin of v. 1 has been lately repeated by Schegg and Meier, namely, that whilst “Judah and Jerusalem” are appropriate enough as defining the object of the first prophecy, the range is too limited to apply to all the prophecies that follow; since their object is not merely Judah, including Jerusalem, but they are also directed against foreign nations, and at ch. 7 the king of Israel, including Samaria, also comes within the horizon of the prophet’s vision.
And in the title to the book of Micah, both kingdoms are distinctly named.
But it was necessary there, inasmuch as Micah commences at once with the approaching overthrow of Samaria. Here the designation is a central one.
Even, according to the well-known maxims a potiori, and a proximo, fit denominatio, it would not be unsuitable; but Judah and Jerusalem are really and essentially the sole object of the prophet’s vision. For within the largest circle of the imperial powers there lies the smaller one of the neighbouring nations; and in this again, the still more limited one of all Israel, including Samaria; and within this the still smaller one of the kingdom of Judah. And all these circles together form the circumference of Jerusalem, since the entire history of the world, so far as its inmost pragmatism and its ultimate goal were concerned, was the history of the church of God, which had for its peculiar site the city of the temple of Jehovah, and of the kingdom of promise.
The expression “concerning Judah and Jerusalem” is therefore perfectly applicable to the whole book, in which all that the prophet sees is seen from Judah-Jerusalem as a centre, and seen for the sake and in the interests of both. The title in v. 1 may pass without hesitation as the heading written by the prophet’s own hand. This is admitted not only by Caspari (Micah, pp. 90-93), but also by Hitzig and Knobel. But if v. 1 contains the title to the whole book, where is the heading to the first prophecy? Are we to take rv,a as a nominative instead of an accusative (qui instead of quam, sc. visionem), as Luzzatto does? This is a very easy way of escaping from the difficulty, and stamping v. 1 as the heading to the first prophetic words in ch. 1; but it is unnatural, as chzh ‘shr chzwn, according to Ges. (§138, note 1), is the customary form in Hebrew of connecting the verb with its own substantive. The real answer is simple enough. The first prophetic address is left intentionally without a heading, just because it is the prologue to all the rest; and the second prophetic address has a heading in Isa 2:1, although it really does not need one, for the purpose of bringing out more sharply the true character of the first as the prologue to the whole.
FIRST HALF OF THE COLLECTIO
Prophecies Relating To The Onward Course Of The Great Mass Of The People Towards Hardening Of Heart)
OPENING ADDRESS CONCERNING THE WAYS OF JEHOVAH WITH HIS UNGRATEFUL AND REBELLIOUS NATION
The difficult question as to the historical and chronological standpoint of this overture to all the following addresses, can only be brought fully out when the exposition is concluded. But there is one thing which we may learn even from a cursory inspection: namely, that the prophet was standing at the eventful boundary line between two distinct halves in the history of Israel. The people had not been brought to reflection and repentance either by the riches of the divine goodness, which they had enjoyed in the time of Uzziah-Jotham, the copy of the times of David and Solomon, or by the chastisements of divine wrath, by which wound after wound was inflicted. The divine methods of education were exhausted, and all that now remained for Jehovah to do was to let the nation in its existing state be dissolved in fire, and to create a new one from the remnant of gold that stood the fiery test. At this time, so pregnant with storms, the prophets were more active than at any other period. Amos appeared about the tenth year of Uzziah’s reign, the twenty-fifth of Jeroboam II; Micah prophesied from the time of Jotham till the fall of Samaria, in the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign; but most prominent of all was Isaiah, the prophet par excellence, standing as he did midway between Moses and Christ.
In the consciousness of his exalted position in relation to the history of salvation, he commences his opening address in Deuteronomic style. Modern critics are of opinion, indeed, that Deuteronomy was not composed till the time of Josiah, or at any rate not earlier than Manasseh; and even Kahnis adduces this as a firmly established fact (see his Dogmatik, i. 277). But if this be the case, how comes it to pass, not only that Micah (Mic 6:8) points back to a saying in Deut 10:12, but that all the post-Mosaic prophecy, even the very earliest of all, is tinged with a Deuteronomic colouring. This surely confirms the self-attestation of the authorship of Moses, which is declared most distinctly in Isa 31:9.
Deuteronomy was most peculiarly Moses’ own law-book-his last will, as it were: it was also the oldest national book of Israel, and therefore the basis of all intercourse between the prophets and the nation.
There is one portion of this peculiarly Mosaic thorah, however, which stands not only in a more truly primary relation to the prophecy of succeeding ages than any of the rest, but in a normative relation also. We refer to Moses’ dying song, which has recently been expounded by Volck and Camphausen, and is called shirath haazinu (song of “Give ear”), from the opening words in ch. 32. This song is a compendious outline or draft, and also the common key to all prophecy, and bears the same fundamental relation to it as the Decalogue to all other laws, and the Lord’s Prayer to all other prayers. The lawgiver summed up the whole of the prophetic contents of his last words (ch. 27-28, 29-30), and threw them into the form of a song, that they might be perpetuated in the memories and mouths of the people. This song sets before the nation its entire history to the end of time. That history divides itself into four great periods: the creation and rise of Israel; the ingratitude and apostasy of Israel; the consequent surrender of Israel to the power of the heathen; and finally, the restoration of Israel, sifted, but not destroyed, and the unanimity of all nations in the praise of Jehovah, who reveals Himself both in judgment and in mercy.
This fourfold character is not only verified in every part of the history of Israel, but is also the seal of that history as a whole, even to its remotest end in New Testament times. In every age, therefore, this song has presented to Israel a mirror of its existing condition and future fate. And it was the task of the prophets to hold up this mirror to the people of their own times. This is what Isaiah does. He begins his prophetic address in the same form in which Moses begins his song. The opening words of Moses are: “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth” (Deut 32:1). In what sense he invoked the heaven and the earth, he tells us himself in Deut 31:28-29. He foresaw in spirit the future apostasy of Israel, and called heaven and earth, which would outlive his earthly life, that was now drawing to a close, as witnesses of what he had to say to his people, with such a prospect before them.
Isaiah commences in the same way (Isa 1:2a), simply transposing the two parallel verbs “hear” and “give ear:” “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for Jehovah speaketh!” The reason for the appeal is couched in very general terms: they were to hear, because Jehovah was speaking. What Jehovah said coincided essentially with the words of Jehovah, which are introduced in Deut 32:20 with the expression “And He said.” What it was stated there that Jehovah would one day have to say in His wrath, He now said through the prophet, whose existing present corresponded to the coming future of the Mosaic ode. The time had now arrived for heaven and earth, which are always existing, and always the same, and which had accompanied Israel’s history thus far in all places and at all times, to fulfil their duty as witnesses, according to the word of the lawgiver. And this was just the special, true, and ultimate sense in which they were called upon by the prophet, as they had previously been by Moses, to “hear.”
They had been present, and had taken part, when Jehovah gave the thorah to His people: the heavens, according to Deut 4:36, as the place from which the voice of God came forth; and the earth, as the scene of His great fire. They were solemnly invoked when Jehovah gave His people the choice between blessing and cursing, life and death (Deut 30:19; 4:26).
And so now they are called upon to hear and join in bearing witness to all that Jehovah, their Creator, and the God of Israel, had to say, and the complaints that He had to make: “I have brought up children, and raised them high, and they have fallen away from me” (v. 2b). Israel is referred to; but Israel is not specially named. On the contrary, the historical facts are generalized almost into a parable, in order that the appalling condition of things which is crying to heaven may be made all the more apparent. Israel was Jehovah’s son (Ex 4:22-23). All the members of the nation were His children (Deut 14:1; 32:20). Jehovah was Israel’s father, by whom it had been begotten (Deut 32:6,18). The existence of Israel as a nation was secured indeed, like that of all other nations, by natural reproduction, and not by spiritual regeneration. But the primary ground of Israel’s origin was the supernatural and mighty word of promise given to Abraham, in Gen 17:15-16; and it was by a series of manifestations of miraculous power and displays of divine grace, that the development of Israel, which dated from that starting-point, was brought up to the position it had reached at the time of the exodus from Egypt. It was in this sense that Israel had been begotten by Jehovah. And this relation between Jehovah and Israel, as His children, had now, at the time when Jehovah was speaking through the mouth of Isaiah, a long and gracious past behind it, viz., the period of Israel’s childhood in Egypt; the period of its youth in the desert; and a period of growing manhood from Joshua to Samuel: so that Jehovah could say, “I have brought up children, and raised them high.”
The piel (giddel) used here signifies “to make great;” and when applied to children, as it is here and in other passages, such as 2 Kings 10:6, it means to bring up, to make great, so far as natural growth is concerned. The pilel (romem), which corresponds to the piel in the so-called verbis cavis, and which is also used in Isa 23:4 and Ezek 31:4 as the parallel to giddel, signifies to lift up, and is used in a “dignified (dignitative) sense,” with reference to the position of eminence, to which, step by step, a wise and loving father advances a child. The two verses depict the state of Israel in the times of David and Solomon, as one of mature manhood and proud exaltation, which had to a certain extent returned under Uzziah and Jotham. But how base had been the return which it had made for all that it had received from God: “And they have fallen away from me.” We should have expected an adversative particle here; but instead of that, we have merely a Vav cop., which is used energetically, as in Isa 6:7 (cf., Hos 7:13).
Two things which ought never to be coupled-Israel’s filial relation to Jehovah, and Israel’s base rebellion against Jehovah-had been realized in their most contradictory forms. The radical meaning of the verb is to break away, or break loose; and the object against which the act is directed is construed with Beth. The idea is that of dissolving connection with a person with violence and self-will; here it relates to that inward severance from God, and renunciation of Him, which preceded all outward acts of sin, and which not only had idolatry for its full and outward manifestation, but was truly idolatry in all its forms. From the time that Solomon gave himself up to the worship of idols, at the close of his reign, down to the days of Isaiah, idolatry had never entirely or permanently ceased to exist, even in public. In two different reformations the attempt had been made to suppress it, viz., in the one commenced by Asa and concluded by Jehoshaphat; and in the one carried out by Joash, during the lifetime of the high priest Jehoiada, his tutor and deliverer. But the first was not successful in suppressing it altogether; and what Joash removed, returned with double abominations as soon as Jehoiada was dead. Consequently the words, “They have rebelled against me,” which sum up all the ingratitude of Israel in one word, and trace it to its root, apply to the whole history of Israel, from its culminating point under David and Solomon, down to the prophet’s own time.
Jehovah then complains that the rebellion with which His children have rewarded Him is not only inhuman, but even worse than that of the brutes: “An ox knoweth its owner, and an ass its master’s crib: Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” An ox has a certain knowledge of its buyer and owner, to whom it willingly submits; and an ass has at least a knowledge of the crib of its master (the noun for “master” is in the plural: this is not to be understood in a numerical, but in an amplifying sense, “the authority over it,” as in Ex 21:29: vid., Ges. §108, 2, b, and Dietrich’s Heb. Gram. p. 45), i.e., it knows that it is its master who fills its crib or manger with fodder (evus, the crib, from avas, to feed, is radically associated with fa>tnh , vulgar pa>qnh , Dor. and Lac. pa>tnh , and is applied in the Talmud to the large common porringer used by labourers). f5 Israel had no such knowledge, neither instinctive and direct, nor acquired by reflection (hithbonan, the reflective conjugation, with a pausal change of the ee into a long a, according to Ges. §54, note). The expressions “doth not know” and “doth not consider” must not be taken here in an objectless sense-as, for example, in Isa 56:10 and Ps 82:5-viz. as signifying they were destitute of all knowledge and reflection; but the object is to be supplied from what goes before: they knew not, and did not consider what answered in their case to the owner and to the crib which the master fills,”- namely, that they were the children and possession of Jehovah, and that their existence and prosperity were dependent upon the grace of Jehovah alone. The parallel, with its striking contrasts, is self-drawn, like that in Jer 8:7, where animals are referred to again, and is clearly indicated in the words “Israel” and “my people.”
Those who were so far surpassed in knowledge and perception even by animals, and so thoroughly put to shame by them, were not merely a nation, like any other nation on the earth, but were “Israel,” descendants of Jacob, the wrestler with God, who wrestled down the wrath of God, and wrestled out a blessing for himself and his descendants; and “my people,” the nation which Jehovah had chosen out of all other nations to be the nation of His possession, and His own peculiar government. This nation, bearing as it did the God-given title of a hero of faith and prayer, this favourite nation of Jehovah, had let itself down far below the level of the brutes. This is the complaint which the exalted speaker pours out in vv. and 3 before heaven and earth. The words of God, together with the introduction, consist of two tetrastichs, the measure and rhythm of which are determined by the meaning of the words and the emotion of the speaker. There is nothing strained in it at all. Prophecy lives and moves amidst the thoughts of God, which prevail above the evil reality: and for that very reason, as a reflection of the glory of God, which is the ideal of beauty (Ps 50:1), it is through and through poetical. That of Isaiah is especially so. There was no art of oratory practised in Israel, which Isaiah did not master, and which did not serve as the vehicle of the word of God, after it had taken shape in the prophet’s mind.
With v. 4 there commences a totally different rhythm. The words of Jehovah are ended. The piercing lamentation of the deeply grieved Father is also the severest accusation. The cause of God, however, is to the prophet the cause of a friend, who feels an injury done to his friend quite as much as if it were done to himself (Isa 5:1). The lamentation of God, therefore, is changed now into violent scolding and threatening on the part of the prophet; and in accordance with the deep wrathful pain with which he is moved, his words pour out with violent rapidity, like flash after flash, in climactic clauses having no outward connection, and each consisting of only two or three words.
“Woe upon the sinful nation, the guilt-laden people, the miscreant race, the children acting corruptly! They have forsaken Jehovah, blasphemed Israel’s Holy One, turned away backwards.” The distinction sometimes drawn between hoi (with He) and oi (with Aleph)-as equivalent to oh! and woe!- cannot be sustained. Hoi is an exclamation of pain, with certain doubtful exceptions; and in the case before us it is not so much a denunciation of woe (vae genti, as the Vulgate renders it), as a lamentation (vae gentem) filled with wrath. The epithets which follow point indirectly to that which Israel ought to have been, according to the choice and determination of God, and plainly declare what it had become through its own choice and ungodly self-determination. (1.) According to the choice and determination of God, Israel was to be a holy nation (goi kadosh, Ex 19:6); but it was a sinful nation-gens peccatrix, as it is correctly rendered by the Vulgate. af;j; is not a participle here, but rather a participial adjective in the sense of what was habitual. It is the singular in common use for the plural aF;jæ , sinners, the singular of which was not used. Holy and Sinful are glaring contrasts: for kadosh, so far as its radical notion is concerned (assuming, that is to say, that this is to be found in kad and not in dosh: see Psalter, i. 588, 9), signifies that which is separated from what is common, unclean, or sinful, and raised above it.
The alliteration in hoi goi implies that the nation, as sinful, was a nation of woe. (2.) In the thorah Israel was called not only “a holy nation,” but also “the people of Jehovah” (Num 17:6, Eng. ver. 16:41), the people chosen and blessed of Jehovah; but now it had become “a people heavy with iniquity.”
Instead of the most natural expression, a people bearing heavy sins; the sin, or iniquity, i.e., the weight carried, is attributed to the people themselves upon whom the weight rested, according to the common figurative idea, that whoever carries a heavy burden is so much heavier himself (cf., gravis oneribus, Cicero). `ˆwO[; (sin regarded as crookedness and perversity, whereas af]je suggests the idea of going astray and missing the way) is the word commonly used wherever the writer intends to describe sin in the mass (e.g., Isa 33:24; Gen 15:16; 19:15), including the guilt occasioned by it. The people of Jehovah had grown into a people heavily laden with guilt.
So crushed, so altered into the very opposite, had Israel’s true nature become. It is with deliberate intention that we have rendered ywOG a nation (Nation), and `µ[æ a people (Volk): for, according to Malbim’s correct definition of the distinction between the two, the former is used to denote the mass, as linked together by common descent, language, and country; the latter the people as bound together by unity of government (see, for example, Ps 105:13). Consequently we always read of the people of the Lord, not the nation of the Lord; and there are only two instances in which goi is attached to a suffix relating to the ruler, and then it relates to Jehovah alone (Zeph 2:9; Ps 106:5). (3.) Israel bore elsewhere the honourable title of the seed of the patriarch (Isa 41:8; 45:19; cf., Gen 21:12); but in reality it was a seed of evil-doers (miscreants). This does not mean that it was descended from evil-doers; but the genitive is used in the sense of a direct apposition to zera (seed), as in Isa 65:23 (cf., ch. 61:9; 6:13, and Ges. §116, 5), and the meaning is a seed which consists of evil-doers, and therefore is apparently descended from evil-doers instead of from patriarchs. This last thought is not implied in the genitive, but in the idea of “seed;” which is always a compact unit, having one origin, and bearing the character of its origin in itself. The rendering brood of evil-doers, however it may accord with the sense, would be inaccurate; for “seed of evil-doers” is just the same as “house of evil-doers” in Isa 31:2. The singular of the noun [[ær; is [æreme , with the usual sharpening in the case of gutturals in the verbs [[ , [[ær; with patach, [ræ with kametz in pause (Isa 9:16, which see)-a noun derived from the hiphil participle. (4.) Those who were of Israel were “children of Jehovah” through the act of God (Deut 14:1); but in their own acts they were “children acting destructively (bânim mashchithim), so that what the thorah feared and predicted had now occurred (Deut 4:16,25; 31:29). In all these passages we find the hiphil, and in the parallel passage of the great song (Deut 32:5) the piel-both of them conjugations which contain within themselves the object of the action indicated (Ges. §53, 2): to do what is destructive, i.e., so to act as to become destructive to one’s self and to others. It is evident from v. 2b, that the term children is to be understood as indicating their relation to Jehovah (cf., Isa 30:1,9). The four interjectional clauses are followed by three declaratory clauses, which describe Israel’s apostasy as total in every respect, and complete the mournful seven. There was apostasy in heart: “They have forsaken Jehovah.” There was apostasy in words: “They blaspheme the Holy One of Israel.” The verb literally means to sting, then to mock or treat scornfully; the use of it to denote blasphemy is antiquated Mosaic (Deut 31:20; Num 14:11,23; 16:30).
It is with intention that God is designated here as “the Holy One of Israel,”-a name which constitutes the keynote of all Isaiah’s prophecy (see at Isa 6:3). It was sin to mock at anything holy; it was a double sin to mock at God, the Holy One; but it was a threefold sin for Israel to mock at God the Holy One, who had set Himself to be the sanctifier of Israel, and required that as He was Israel’s sanctification, He should also be sanctified by Israel according to His holiness (Lev 19:2, etc.). And lastly, there was also apostasy in action: “they have turned away backwards;” or, as the Vulgate renders it, abalienati sunt. rwOzn is the reflective of rWz , related to rzæn; and rWs , for which it is the word commonly used in the Targum. The niphal, which is only met with here, indicates the deliberate character of their estrangement from God; and the expression is rendered still more emphatic by the introduction of the word “backwards” (achor, which is used emphatically in the place of wyrjam ). In all their actions they ought to have followed Jehovah; but they had turned their backs upon Him, and taken the way selected by themselves.
In this verse a disputed question arises as to the words hm,Al[æ hm; , the shorter, sharper form of hm; , which is common even before non-gutturals, Ges. §32, 1): viz., whether they mean “wherefore,” as the LXX, Targums, Vulgate, and most of the early versions render them, or “upon what,” i.e., upon which part of the body, as others, including Schröring, suppose.
Luzzatto maintains that the latter rendering is spiritless, more especially because there is nothing in the fact that a limb has been struck already to prevent its being struck again; but such objections as these can only arise in connection with a purely literal interpretation of the passage. If we adopted this rendering, the real meaning would be, that there was no judgment whatever that had not already fallen upon Israel on account of its apostasy, so that it was not far from utter destruction. We agree, however, with Caspari in deciding in favour of the meaning “to what” (to what end). For in all the other passage in which the expression occurs (fourteen times in all), it is used in this sense, and once even with the verb hiccâh, to smite (Num 22:32), whilst it is only in v. 6 that the idea of the people as one body is introduced; whereas the question “upon what” would require that the reader or hearer should presuppose it here. But in adopting the rendering “whereto,” or to what end, we do not understand it, as Malbim does, in the sense of cui bono, with the underlying thought, “It would be ineffectual, as all the previous smiting has proved;” for this thought never comes out in a direct expression, as we should expect, but rather-according to the analogy of the questions with lamah in Ezek 18:31; Jer 44:7-in the sense of qua de causa, with the underlying thought, “There would be only an infatuated pleasure in your own destruction.” 5a. V. 5a we therefore render thus: “Why would ye be perpetually smitten, multiplying rebellion?” `dwO[ (with tiphchah , a stronger disjunctive than tebir) belongs to hk;T; ; see the same form of accentuation in Ezek 19:9.
They are not two distinct interrogative clauses (“why would ye be smitten afresh? why do ye add revolt?”-(Luzzatto), but the second clause is subordinate to the first (without there being any necessity to supply chi, “because,” as Gesenius supposes), an adverbial minor clause defining the main clause more precisely; at all events this is the logical connection, as in Isa 5:11 (cf., Ps 62:4, “delighting in lies,” and Ps 4:3, “loving vanity”):
LXX “adding iniquity.” Sârâh (rebellion) is a deviation from truth and rectitude; and here, as in many other instances, it denotes apostasy from Jehovah, who is the absolutely Good, and absolute goodness. There is a still further dispute whether the next words should be rendered “every head” and “every heart,” or “the whole head” and “the whole heart.” In prose the latter would be impossible, as the two nouns are written without the article; but in the poetic style of the prophets the article may be omitted after col, when used in the sense of “the whole” (e.g., Isa 9:12: with whole mouth, i.e., with full mouth).
Nevertheless col, without the article following, never signifies “the whole” when it occurs several times in succession, as in Isa 15:2 and Ezek 7:17- 18. We must therefore render v. 5b, “Every head is diseased, and every heart is sick.” The Lamed in locholi indicates the state into which a thing has come: every head in a state of disease (Ewald, §217, d: locholi without the article, as in 2 Chron 21:18). The prophet asks his fellow-countrymen why they are so foolish as to heap apostasy upon apostasy, and so continue to call down the judgments of God, which have already fallen upon them blow after blow. Has it reached such a height with them, that among all the many heads and hearts there is not one head which is not in a diseased state, not one heart which is not thoroughly ill? (davvai an emphatic form of daveh). Head and heart are mentioned as the noblest parts of the outer and inner man. Outwardly and inwardly every individual in the nation had already been smitten by the wrath of God, so that they had had enough, and might have been brought to reflection.
This description of the total misery of every individual in the nation is followed by a representation of the whole nation as one miserably diseased body. V. 6. “From the some of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it: cuts, and stripes, and festering wounds; they have not been pressed out, nor bound up, nor has there been any soothing with oil.” The body of the nation, to which the expression “in it” applies (i.e., the nation as a whole), was covered with wounds of different kinds; and no means whatever had been applied to heal these many, various wounds, which lay all together, close to one another, and one upon the other, covering the whole body. Cuts (from [xæp, to cut) are wounds that have cut into the flesh-sword-cuts, for example. These need binding up, in order that the gaping wound may close again. Stripes (chabburâh, from châbar, to stripe), swollen stripes, or weals, as if from a cut with a whip, or a blow with a fist: these require softening with oil, that the coagulated blood of swelling may disperse.
Festering wounds, maccâh teriyâh, from târâh, to be fresh (a different word from the talmudic word t’re, Chullin 45b, to thrust violently, so as to shake): these need pressing, for the purpose of cleansing them, so as to facilitate their healing. Thus the three predicates manifest an approximation to a chiasm (the crossing of the members); but this retrospective relation is not thoroughly carried out. The predicates are written in the plural, on account of the collective subject. The clause ˆm,v, Ëkær; alo , which refers to hrwbj (stripes), so far as the sense is concerned (olive-oil, like all oleosa, being a dispersing medium), is to be taken as neuter, since this is the only way of explaining the change in the number: “And no softening has been effected with oil.” Zoru we might suppose to be a pual, especially on account of the other puals near: it is not so, however, for the simple reason that, according to the accentuation (viz., with two pashtahs, the first of which gives the tone, as in tohu, Gen 1:2, so that it must be pronounced zóru), it has the tone upon the penultimate, for which it would be impossible to discover any reason, if it were derived from zârâh. For the assumption that the tone is drawn back to prepare the way for the strong tone of the next verb (chubbâshu) is arbitrary, as the influence of the pause, though it sometimes reaches the last word but one, never extends to the last but two.
Moreover, according to the usage of speech, zorâh signifies to be dispersed, not to be pressed out; whereas zur and zârar are commonly used in the sense of pressing together and squeezing out. Consequently zoru is either the kal of an intransitive zor in the middle voice (like boshu), or, what is more probable-as zoru, the middle voice in Ps 58:4, has a different meaning (abalienati sunt: cf., v. 4)-the kal of zârar (= Arab. constringere), which is here conjugated as an intransitive (cf., Job 24:24, rommu, and Gen 49:23, where robbu is used in an active sense). The surgical treatment so needed by the nation was a figurative representation of the pastoral addresses of the prophets, which had been delivered indeed, but, inasmuch as their salutary effects were dependent upon the penitential sorrow of the people, might as well have never been delivered at all.
The people had despised the merciful, compassionate kindness of their God. They had no liking for the radical cure which the prophets had offered to effect. All the more pitiable, therefore, was the condition of the body, which was sick within, and diseased from head to foot. The prophet is speaking here of the existing state of things. He affirms that it is all over with the nation; and this is the ground and object of his reproachful lamentations. Consequently, when he passes in the next verse from figurative language to literal, we may presume that he is still speaking of his own times. It is Isaiah’s custom to act in this manner as his own expositor (compare v. 22 with v. 23). The body thus inwardly and outwardly diseased, was, strictly speaking, the people and the land in their fearful condition at that time.
This is described more particularly in v. 7, which commences with the most general view, and returns to it again at the close. V. 7. “Your land...a desert; your cities...burned with fire; your field...foreigners consuming it before your eyes, and a desert like overthrowing by strangers.” Caspari has pointed out, in his Introduction to the Book of Isaiah (p. 204), how nearly every word corresponds to the curses threatened in Lev 26 and Deut (29); Mic 6:13-16 and Jer 5:15ff. stand in the very same relation to these sections of the Pentateuch. From the time of Isaiah downwards, the state of Israel was a perfect realization of the curses of the law. The prophet intentionally employs the words of the law to describe his own times; he designates the enemy, who devastated the land, reduced its towers to ashes, and took possession of its crops, by the simple term zarim, foreigners or barbarians (a word which would have the very same meaning if it were really the reduplication of the Aramaean bar; compare the Syriac barôye, a foreigner), without mentioning their particular nationality.
He abstracts himself from the definite historical present, in order that he may point out all the more emphatically how thoroughly it bears the character of the fore-ordained curse. The most emphatic indication of this was to be found in the fact, which the clause at the close of v. palindromically affirms, that a desolation had been brought about “like the overthrow of foreigners.” The repetition of a catchword like zarim (foreigners) at the close of the verse in this emphatic manner, is a figure of speech, called epanaphora, peculiar to the two halves of our collection.
The question arises, however, whether zarim is to be regarded as the genitive of the subject, as Caspari, Knobel, and others suppose, “such an overthrow as is commonly produced by barbarians” (cf., 2 Sam 10:3, where the verb occurs), or as the genitive of the object, “such an overthrow as comes upon barbarians.”
As mahpechâh (overthrow) is used in other places in which it occurs to denote the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., according to the primary passage, Deut 29:22, and Isaiah had evidently also this catastrophe in his mind, as v. 8 clearly shows; we decide in favour of the conclusion that zârim is the genitive of the object (cf., Amos 4:11). The force of the comparison is also more obvious, if we understand the words in this sense.
The desolation which had fallen upon the land of the people of God resembled that thorough desolation (subversio) with which God visited the nations outside the covenant, who, like the people of the Pentapolis, were swept from off the earth without leaving a trace behind. But although there was similarity, there was not sameness, as vv. 8, 9 distinctly affirm.
Jerusalem itself was still preserved; but in how pitiable a condition! There can be no doubt that bath-Zion (“daughter of Zion,” Eng. ver.) in v. signifies Jerusalem. The genitive in this case is a genitive of apposition: “daughter Zion,” not “daughter of Zion” (cf., Isa 37:22: see Ges. §116, 5).
Zion itself is represented as a daughter, i.e., as a woman. The expression applied primarily to the community dwelling around the fortress of Zion, to which the individual inhabitants stood in the same relation as children to a mother, inasmuch as the community sees its members for the time being come into existence and grow: they are born within her, and, as it were, born and brought up by her. It was then applied secondarily to the city itself, with or without the inhabitants (cf., Jer 46:19; 48:18; Zech 2:11). In this instance the latter are included, as v. 9 clearly shows. This is precisely the point in the first two comparisons. 8a. “And the daughter of Zion remains lie a hut in a vineyard; like a hammock in a cucumber field.” The vineyard and cucumber field (mikshah, from kisshu, a cucumber, cucumis, not a gourd, cucurbita; at least not the true round gourd, whose Hebrew name, dalaath, does not occur in the Old Testament) are pictured by the prophet in their condition before the harvest (not after, as the Targums render it), when it is necessary that they should be watched. The point of comparison therefore is, that in the vineyard and cucumber field not a human being is to be seen in any direction; and there is nothing but the cottage and the night barrack or hammock (cf., Job 27:18) to show that there are any human beings there at all. So did Jerusalem stand in the midst of desolation, reaching far and wide-a sign, however, that the land was not entirely depopulated. But what is the meaning of the third point of comparison?
Hitzig renders it, “like a watch-tower;” Knobel, “like a guard-city.” But the noun neither means a tower nor a castle (although the latter would be quite possible, according to the primary meaning, cingere); and nezurâh does not mean “watch” or “guard.” On the other hand, the comparison indicated (like, or as) does not suit what would seem the most natural rendering, viz., “like a guarded city,” i.e., a city shielded from danger. Moreover, it is inadmissible to take the first two Caphs in the sense of sicut (as) and the third in the sense of sic (so); since, although this correlative is common in clauses indicating identity, it is not so in sentences which institute a simple comparison. We therefore adopt the rendering, v. 8b, “As a besieged city,” deriving nezurâh not from zur, niphal nâzor (never used), as Luzzatto does, but from nâzar, which signifies to observe with keen eye, either with a good intention, or, as in Job 7:20, for a hostile purpose.
It may therefore be employed, like the synonyms in 2 Sam 11:16 and Jer 5:6, to denote the reconnoitring of a city. Jerusalem was not actually blockaded at the time when the prophet uttered his predictions; but it was like a blockaded city. In the case of such a city there is a desolate space, completely cleared of human beings, left between it and the blockading army, in the centre of which the city itself stands solitary and still, shut up to itself. The citizens do not venture out; the enemy does not come within the circle that immediately surrounds the city, for fear of the shots of the citizens; and everything within this circle is destroyed, either by the citizens themselves, to prevent the enemy from finding anything useful, or else by the enemy, who cut down the trees. Thus, with all the joy that might be felt at the preservation of Jerusalem, it presented but a gloomy appearance. It was, as it were, in a state of siege. A proof that this is the way in which the passage is to be explained, may be found in Jer 4:16-17, where the actual storming of Jerusalem is foretold, and the enemy is called nozerim, probably with reference to the simile before us. ISAIAH 1:7 This is described more particularly in v. 7, which commences with the most general view, and returns to it again at the close. V. 7. “Your land...a desert; your cities...burned with fire; your field...foreigners consuming it before your eyes, and a desert like overthrowing by strangers.” Caspari has pointed out, in his Introduction to the Book of Isaiah (p. 204), how nearly every word corresponds to the curses threatened in Lev 26 and Deut (29); Mic 6:13-16 and Jer 5:15ff. stand in the very same relation to these sections of the Pentateuch. From the time of Isaiah downwards, the state of Israel was a perfect realization of the curses of the law. The prophet intentionally employs the words of the law to describe his own times; he designates the enemy, who devastated the land, reduced its towers to ashes, and took possession of its crops, by the simple term zarim, foreigners or barbarians (a word which would have the very same meaning if it were really the reduplication of the Aramaean bar; compare the Syriac barôye, a foreigner), without mentioning their particular nationality.
He abstracts himself from the definite historical present, in order that he may point out all the more emphatically how thoroughly it bears the character of the fore-ordained curse. The most emphatic indication of this was to be found in the fact, which the clause at the close of v. palindromically affirms, that a desolation had been brought about “like the overthrow of foreigners.” The repetition of a catchword like zarim (foreigners) at the close of the verse in this emphatic manner, is a figure of speech, called epanaphora, peculiar to the two halves of our collection.
The question arises, however, whether zarim is to be regarded as the genitive of the subject, as Caspari, Knobel, and others suppose, “such an overthrow as is commonly produced by barbarians” (cf., 2 Sam 10:3, where the verb occurs), or as the genitive of the object, “such an overthrow as comes upon barbarians.”
As mahpechâh (overthrow) is used in other places in which it occurs to denote the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., according to the primary passage, Deut 29:22, and Isaiah had evidently also this catastrophe in his mind, as v. 8 clearly shows; we decide in favour of the conclusion that zârim is the genitive of the object (cf., Amos 4:11). The force of the comparison is also more obvious, if we understand the words in this sense.
The desolation which had fallen upon the land of the people of God resembled that thorough desolation (subversio) with which God visited the nations outside the covenant, who, like the people of the Pentapolis, were swept from off the earth without leaving a trace behind. But although there was similarity, there was not sameness, as vv. 8, 9 distinctly affirm.
Jerusalem itself was still preserved; but in how pitiable a condition! There can be no doubt that bath-Zion (“daughter of Zion,” Eng. ver.) in v. signifies Jerusalem. The genitive in this case is a genitive of apposition: “daughter Zion,” not “daughter of Zion” (cf., Isa 37:22: see Ges. §116, 5).
Zion itself is represented as a daughter, i.e., as a woman. The expression applied primarily to the community dwelling around the fortress of Zion, to which the individual inhabitants stood in the same relation as children to a mother, inasmuch as the community sees its members for the time being come into existence and grow: they are born within her, and, as it were, born and brought up by her. It was then applied secondarily to the city itself, with or without the inhabitants (cf., Jer 46:19; 48:18; Zech 2:11). In this instance the latter are included, as v. 9 clearly shows. This is precisely the point in the first two comparisons. 8a. “And the daughter of Zion remains lie a hut in a vineyard; like a hammock in a cucumber field.” The vineyard and cucumber field (mikshah, from kisshu, a cucumber, cucumis, not a gourd, cucurbita; at least not the true round gourd, whose Hebrew name, dalaath, does not occur in the Old Testament) are pictured by the prophet in their condition before the harvest (not after, as the Targums render it), when it is necessary that they should be watched. The point of comparison therefore is, that in the vineyard and cucumber field not a human being is to be seen in any direction; and there is nothing but the cottage and the night barrack or hammock (cf., Job 27:18) to show that there are any human beings there at all. So did Jerusalem stand in the midst of desolation, reaching far and wide-a sign, however, that the land was not entirely depopulated. But what is the meaning of the third point of comparison?
Hitzig renders it, “like a watch-tower;” Knobel, “like a guard-city.” But the noun neither means a tower nor a castle (although the latter would be quite possible, according to the primary meaning, cingere); and nezurâh does not mean “watch” or “guard.” On the other hand, the comparison indicated (like, or as) does not suit what would seem the most natural rendering, viz., “like a guarded city,” i.e., a city shielded from danger. Moreover, it is inadmissible to take the first two Caphs in the sense of sicut (as) and the third in the sense of sic (so); since, although this correlative is common in clauses indicating identity, it is not so in sentences which institute a simple comparison. We therefore adopt the rendering, v. 8b, “As a besieged city,” deriving nezurâh not from zur, niphal nâzor (never used), as Luzzatto does, but from nâzar, which signifies to observe with keen eye, either with a good intention, or, as in Job 7:20, for a hostile purpose.
It may therefore be employed, like the synonyms in 2 Sam 11:16 and Jer 5:6, to denote the reconnoitring of a city. Jerusalem was not actually blockaded at the time when the prophet uttered his predictions; but it was like a blockaded city. In the case of such a city there is a desolate space, completely cleared of human beings, left between it and the blockading army, in the centre of which the city itself stands solitary and still, shut up to itself. The citizens do not venture out; the enemy does not come within the circle that immediately surrounds the city, for fear of the shots of the citizens; and everything within this circle is destroyed, either by the citizens themselves, to prevent the enemy from finding anything useful, or else by the enemy, who cut down the trees. Thus, with all the joy that might be felt at the preservation of Jerusalem, it presented but a gloomy appearance. It was, as it were, in a state of siege. A proof that this is the way in which the passage is to be explained, may be found in Jer 4:16-17, where the actual storming of Jerusalem is foretold, and the enemy is called nozerim, probably with reference to the simile before us.
For the present, however, Jerusalem was saved from this extremity.-V. 9.
The omnipotence of God had mercifully preserved it: “Unless Jehovah of hosts had left us a little of what had escaped, we had become like Sodom, we were like Gomorrah.” Sarid (which is rendered inaccurately spe>rma in the Sept.; cf., Rom 9:29) was used, even in the early Mosaic usage of the language, to signify that which escaped the general destruction (Deut 2:34, etc.); and f[æm] (which might very well be connected with the verbs which follow: “we were very nearly within a little like Sodom,” etc.) is to be taken in connection with sarid, as the pausal form clearly shows: “a remnant which was but a mere trifle” (on this use of the word, see Isa 16:14; 2 Chron 12:7; Prov 10:20; Ps 105:12). Jehovah Zebaoth stands first, for the sake of emphasis. It would have been all over with Israel long ago, if it had not been for the compassion of God (vid., Hos 11:8). And because it was the omnipotence of God, which set the will of His compassion in motion, He is called Jehovah Zebaoth, Jehovah (the God) of the heavenly hosts-an expression in which Zebaoth is a dependent genitive, and not, as Luzzatto supposes, an independent name of God as the Absolute, embracing within itself all the powers of nature. The prophet says “us” and “we.” He himself was an inhabitant of Jerusalem; and even if he had not been so, he was nevertheless an Israelite. He therefore associates himself with his people, like Jeremiah in Lam 3:22. He had had to experience the anger of God along with the rest; and so, on the other hand, he also celebrates the mighty compassion of God, which he had experienced in common with them. But for this compassion, the people of God would have become like Sodom, from which only four human beings escaped: it would have resembled Gomorrah, which was absolutely annihilated. (On the prefects in the protasis and apodosis, see Ges. §126, 5.)
The prophet’s address has here reached a resting-place. The fact that it is divided at this point into two separate sections, is indicated in the text by the space left between vv. 9 and 10. This mode of marking larger or smaller sections, either by leaving spaces of by breaking off the line, is older than the vowel points and accents, and rests upon a tradition of the highest antiquity (Hupfeld, Gram. p. 86ff.). The space is called pizka; the section indicated by such a space, a closed parashah (sethumah); and the section indicated by breaking off the line, an open parashah (pethuchah).
The prophet stops as soon as he has affirmed, that nothing but the mercy of God has warded off from Israel the utter destruction which it so well deserved. He catches in spirit the remonstrances of his hearers. They would probably declare that the accusations which the prophet had brought against them were utterly groundless, and appeal to their scrupulous observance of the law of God. In reply to this self-vindication which he reads in the hearts of the accused, the prophet launches forth the accusations of God. In vv. 10, 11, he commences thus: “Hear the word of Jehovah, ye Sodom judges; give ear to the law of our God, O Gomorrah nation! What is the multitude of your slain-offerings to me? saith Jehovah.
I am satiated with whole offerings of rams, and the fat of stalled calves; and blood of bullocks and sheep and he-goats I do not like.” The second start in the prophet’s address commences, like the first, with “hear” and “give ear.” The summons to hear is addressed in this instances (as in the case of Isaiah’s contemporary Micah, ch. 3) to the kezinim (from kâzâh, decidere, from which comes the Arabic el-Kadi, the judge, with the substantive termination in: see Jeshurun, p. 212 ss.), i.e., to the men of decisive authority, the rulers in the broadest sense, and to the people subject to them. It was through the mercy of God that Jerusalem was in existence still, for Jerusalem was “spiritually Sodom,” as the Revelation (Rev 11:8) distinctly affirms of Jerusalem, with evident allusion to this passage of Isaiah. Pride, lust of the flesh, and unmerciful conduct, were the leading sins of Sodom, according to Ezek 16:49; and of these, the rulers of Jerusalem, and the crowd that was subject to them and worthy of them, were equally guilty now. But they fancied that they could not possibly stand in such evil repute with God, inasmuch as they rendered outward satisfaction to the law.
The prophet therefore called upon them to hear the law of the God of Israel, which he would announce to them: for the prophet was the appointed interpreter of the law, and prophecy the spirit of the law, and the prophetic institution the constant living presence of the true essence of the law bearing its own witness in Israel. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith Jehovah.” The prophet intentionally uses the word rmæa; , not rmæa; : this was the incessant appeal of God in relation to the spiritless, formal worship offered by the hypocritical, ceremonial righteousness of Israel (the future denoting continuous actions, which is ever at the same time both present and future). The multitude of zebâchim, i.e., animal sacrifices, had no worth at all to Him. As the whole worship is summed up here in one single act, zebâchim appears to denote the shelamim, peace-offerings (or better still, communion offerings), with which a meal was associated, after the style of a sacrificial festival, and Jehovah gave the worshipper a share in the sacrifice offered.
It is better, however, to take zebachim as the general name for all the bleeding sacrifices, which are then subdivided into ‘oloth and cheleb, as consisting partly of whole offerings, or offerings the whole of which was placed upon the altar, though in separate pieces, and entirely consumed, and partly of those sacrifices in which only the fat was consumed upon the altar, namely the sin-offerings, trespass-offerings, and pre-eminently the shelâmim offerings. Of the sacrificial animals mentioned, the bullocks (pârim) and fed beasts (meri’im, fattened calves) are species of oxen (bakar); and the lambs (cebâshim) and he-goats (atturim, young he-goats, as distinguished from se’ir, the old long-haired he-goat, the animal used as a sin-offering), together with the ram (ayil, the customary whole offering of the high priest, of the tribe prince, and of the nation generally on all the high feast days), were species of the flock. The blood of these sacrificial animals-such, for example, as the young oxen, sheep, and he-goats-was thrown all round the altar in the case of the whole offering, the peaceoffering, and the trespass-offering; in that of the sin-offering it was smeared upon the horns of the altar, poured out at the foot of the altar, and in some instances sprinkled upon the walls of the altar, or against the vessels of the inner sanctuary. Of such offerings as these Jehovah was weary, and He wanted no more (the two perfects denote that which long has been and still is: Ges. §126, 3); in fact, He never had desired anything of the kind.
Jeremiah says this with regard to the sacrifices (Isa 7:22); Isaiah also applies it to visits to the temple: V. 12. “When ye come to appear before my face, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?” ha;r; is a contracted infinitive niphal for ha;r; (compare the hiphil forms contracted in the same manner in Isa 3:8; 23:11). This is the standing expression for the appearance of all male Israelites in the temple at the three high festivals, as prescribed by the law, and then for visits to the temple generally (cf., Ps 42:3; 84:8). “My face” (panai): according to Ewald, §279, c, this is used with the passive to designate the subject (“to be seen by the face of God”); but why not rather take it as an adverbial accusative, “in the face of,” or “in front of,” as it is used interchangeably with the prepositions l] , tae , and lae ? It is possible that ha;r; is pointed as it is here, and in Ex 34:24 and in Deut 31:11, instead of ha;r; -like ha;r; for ha;r; , in Ex 23:15; 34:20-for the purpose of avoiding an expression which might be so easily misunderstood as denoting a sight of God with the bodily eye. But the niphal is firmly established in Ex 23:17; 34:23, and 1 Sam 1:22; and in the Mishnah and Talmud the terms yrif; and ree’aayown are applied without hesitation to appearance before God at the principal feasts. They visited the temple diligently enough indeed, but who had required this at their hand, i.e., required them to do this? Jehovah certainly had not. “To tread my courts” is in apposition to this, which it more clearly defines. Jehovah did not want them to appear before His face, i.e., He did not wish for this spiritless and undevotional tramping thither, this mere opus operatum, which might as well have been omitted, since it only wore out the floor. 13a. Because they had not performed what Jehovah commanded as He commanded it, He expressly forbids them to continue it. “Continue not to bring lying meat-offering; abomination incense is it to me.” Minchah (the meat-offering) was the vegetable offering, as distinguished from zebach, the animal sacrifice. It is called a “lying meat-offering,” as being a hypocritical dead work, behind which there was none of the feeling which it appeared to express. In the second clause the Sept., Vulg., Gesenius, and others adopt the rendering “incense-an abomination is it to me,” ketoreth being taken as the name of the daily burning of incense upon the golden altar in the holy place (Ex 30:8). But neither in Ps 141:2, where prayer is offered by one who is not a priest, nor in the passage before us, where the reference is not to the priesthood, but to the people and to their deeds, is this continual incense to be thought of. Moreover, it is much more natural to regard the word ketoreth not as a bold absolute case, but, according to the conjunctive darga with which it is marked, as constructive rather; and this is perfectly allowable. The meat-offering is called “incense” (ketoreth) with reference to the so-called azcarah, i.e., that portion which the priest burned upon the altar, to bring the grateful offerer into remembrance before God (called “burning the memorial,” hiktir azcârâh, in Lev 2:2). As a general rule, this was accompanied with incense (Isa 66:3), the whole of which was placed upon the altar, and not merely a small portion of it. The meat-offering, with its sweet-smelling savour, was merely the form, which served as an outward expression of the thanksgiving for God’s blessing, or the longing for His blessing, which really ascended in prayer. But in their case the form had no such meaning. It was nothing but the form, with which they thought they had satisfied God; and therefore it was an abomination to Him. 13b. God was just as little pleased with their punctilious observance of the feasts: “New-moon and Sabbath, calling of festal meetings...I cannot bear ungodliness and a festal crowd.” The first objective notions, which are logically governed by “I cannot bear” ( lbæWaAal : literally, a future hophal-I am unable, incapable, viz., to bear, which may be supplied, according to Ps 101:5; Jer 44:22; Prov 30:21), become absolute cases here, on account of another grammatical object presenting itself in the last two nouns: “ungodliness and a festal crowd.” As for new-moon and Sabbath (the latter always signifies the weekly Sabbath when construed with chodesh)-and, in fact, the calling of meetings of the whole congregation on the weekly Sabbath and high festivals, which was a simple duty according to Lev 23-Jehovah could not endure festivals associated with wickedness. `hr;x;[ (from `rx;[; , to press, or crowd thickly together) is synonymous with ar;q]mi , so far as its immediate signification is concerned, as Jer 9:1 clearly shows, just as panh>guriv is synonymous with ekklhsi>a . ˆw,a; (from ‘uwn, to breathe) is moral worthlessness, regarded as an utter absence of all that has true essence and worth in the sight of God. The prophet intentionally joins these two nouns together. A densely crowded festal meeting, combined with inward emptiness and barrenness on the part of those who were assembled together, was a contradiction which God could not endure.
He gives a still stronger expression to His repugnance: “Your new-moons and your festive seasons my soul hateth; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” As the soul (nephesh) of a man, regarded as the band which unites together bodily and spiritual life, though it is not the actual principle of self-consciousness, is yet the place in which he draws, as it were, the circle of self-consciousness, so as to comprehend the whole essence of His being in the single thought of “I;” so, according to a description taken from godlike man, the “soul” (nephesh) of God, as the expression “my soul” indicates, is the centre of His being, regarded as encircled and pervaded (personated) by self-consciousness; and therefore, whatever the soul of God hates (vid., Jer 15:1) or loves (Isa 42:1), is hated or loved in the inmost depths and to the utmost bounds of His being (Psychol. p. 218). Thus He hated each and all of the festivals that were kept in Jerusalem, whether the beginnings of the month, or the high feastdays (moadim, in which, according to Lev 23, the Sabbath was also included) observed in the course of the month. For a long time past they had become a burden and annoyance to Him: His long-suffering was weary of such worship. “To bear” ( can] , in Isaiah, even in Isa 18:3, for taec] or ht;ve , and here for ac;n; : Ewald, §285, c) has for its object the seasons of worship already mentioned. ISAIAH 1:15 Their self-righteousness, so far as it rested upon sacrifices and festal observances, was now put to shame, and the last inward bulwark of the sham holy nation was destroyed: “And if ye stretch out your hands, I hide my eyes from you; if ye make ever so much praying, I do not hear: your hands are full of blood.” Their praying was also an abomination to God.
Prayer is something common to man: it is the interpreter of religious feeling, which intervenes and mediates between God and man; it is the true spiritual sacrifice.
The law contains no command to pray, and, with the exception of Deut 26, no form of prayer. Praying is so natural to man as man, that there was no necessity for any precept to enforce this, the fundamental expression of the true relation to God. The prophet therefore comes to prayer last of all, so as to trace back their sham-holiness, which was corrupt even to this the last foundation, to its real nothingness. “Spread out,” parash, or pi. peereesh, to stretch out; used with cappaim to denote swimming in Isa 25:11. It is written here before a strong suffix, as in many other passages, e.g., Isa 52:12, with the inflection i instead of e. This was the gesture of a man in prayer, who spread out his hands, and when spread out, stretched them towards heaven, or to the most holy place in the temple, and indeed (as if with the feeling of emptiness and need, and with a desire to receive divine gifts) held up the hollow or palm of his hand (cappaim: cf., tendere palmas, e.g., Virg. Aen. xii. 196, tenditque ad sidera palmas).
However much they might stand or lie before Him in the attitude of prayer, Jehovah hid His eyes, i.e., His omniscience knew nothing of it; and even though they might pray loud and long (gam chi, etiamsi: compare the simple chi, Jer 14:12), He was, as it were, deaf to it all. We should expect chi here to introduce the explanation; but the more excited the speaker, the shorter and more unconnected his words. The plural damim always denotes human blood as the result of some unnatural act, and then the bloody deed and the bloodguiltiness itself. The plural number neither refers to the quantity nor to the separate drops, but is the plural of production, which Dietrich has so elaborately discussed in his Abhandlung, p. 40. f7 The terrible damim stands very emphatically before the governing verb, pointing to many murderous acts that had been committed, and deeds of violence akin to murder. Not, indeed, that we are to understand the words as meaning that there was really blood upon their hands when they stretched them out in prayer; but before God, from whom no outward show can hide the true nature of things, however clean they might have washed themselves, they still dripped with blood. The expostulations of the people against the divine accusations have thus been negatively set forth and met in vv. 11-15: Jehovah could not endure their work-righteous worship, which was thus defiled with unrighteous works, even to murder itself. The divine accusation is now positively established in vv. 16, 17, by the contrast drawn between the true righteousness of which the accused were destitute, and the false righteousness of which they boasted. The crushing charge is here changed into an admonitory appeal; and the love which is hidden behind the wrath, and would gladly break through, already begins to disclose itself. There are eight admonitions. The first three point to the removal of evil; the other five to the performance of what is good.
The first three run thus: “Wash, clean yourselves; put away the badness of your doings from the range of my eyes; cease to do evil.” This is not only an advance from figurative language to the most literal, but there is also an advance in what is said. The first admonition requires, primarily and above all, purification from the sins committed, by means of forgiveness sought for and obtained. Wash: rachatzu, from râchatz, in the frequent middle sense of washing one’s self. Clean yourselves: hizzaccu, with the tone upon the last syllable, is not the niphal of zâkak, as the first plur. imper. niph. of such verbs has generally and naturally the tone upon the penultimate (see Isa 52:11; Num 17:10), but the hithpael of zacah for hizdaccu, with the preformative Tav resolved into the first radical letter, as is very common in the hithpael (Ges. §54, 2, b). According to the difference between the two synonyms (to wash one’s self, to clean one’s self), the former must be understood as referring to the one great act of repentance on the part of a man who is turning to God, the latter to the daily repentance of one who has so turned. The second admonition requires them to place themselves in the light of the divine countenance, and put away the evil of their doings, which was intolerable to pure eyes (Hab 1:13). They were to wrestle against the wickedness to which their actual sin had grown, until at length it entirely disappeared. Neged, according to its radical meaning, signifies prominence (compare the Arabic negd, high land which is visible at a great distance), conspicuousness, so that minneged is really equivalent to ex apparentia. ISAIAH 1:17 Five admonitions relating to the practice of what is good: “Learn to do good, attend to judgment, set the oppressor right, do justice to the orphan, conduct the cause of the widow.” The first admonition lays the foundation for the rest. They were to learn to do good-a difficult art, in which a man does not become proficient merely by good intentions. “Learn to do good:” hetib is the object to limdu (learn), regarded as an accusative; the inf. abs. [[ær; in v. 16 takes the place of the object in just the same manner. The division of this primary admonition into four minor ones relating to the administration of justice, may be explained from the circumstance that no other prophet directs so keen an eye upon the state and its judicial proceedings as Isaiah has done. He differs in this respect from his younger contemporary Micah, whose prophecies are generally more ethical in their nature, whilst those of Isaiah have a political character throughout.
Hence the admonitions: “Give diligent attention to judgment” (dârash, to devote one’s self to a thing with zeal and assiduity); and “bring the oppressor to the right way.” This is the true rendering, as châmotz (from châmatz, to be sharp in flavour, glaring in appearance, violent and impetuous in character) cannot well mean “the oppressed,” or the man who is deprived of his rights, as most of the early translators have rendered it, since this form of the noun, especially with an immutable kametz like dwOgB; dwOgB; (cf., dqon; hD;qun] ), is not used in a passive, but in an active or attributive sense (Ewald, §152, b: vid., at Ps 137:8): it has therefore the same meaning as chometz in Ps 71:4, and âshok in Jer 22:3, which is similar in its form. But if châmotz signifies the oppressive, reckless, churlish man, ‘isheer cannot mean to make happy, or to congratulate, or to set up, or, as in the talmudic rendering, to strengthen (Luzzatto: rianimate chi è oppresso); but, as it is also to be rendered in Isa 3:12; 9:15, to lead to the straight road, or to cause a person to keep the straight course. In the case before us, where the oppressor is spoken of, it means to direct him to the way of justice, to keep him in bounds by severe punishment and discipline. f8 In the same way we find in other passages, such as Isa 11:4 and Ps 72:4, severe conduct towards oppressors mentioned in connection with just treatment of the poor. There follow two admonitions relating to widows and orphans. Widows and orphans, as well as foreigners, were the proteges of God and His law, standing under His especial guardianship and care (see, for example, Ex 22:22 (21), cf., 21 (20). “Do justice to the orphan” (Shâphat, as in Deut 25:1, is a contracted expression for shâphat mishpat): for if there is not even a settlement or verdict in their cause, this is the most crying injustice of all, as neither the form nor the appearance of justice is preserved. “Conduct the cause of the widows:” byri with an accusative, as in Isa 51:22, the only other passage in which it occurs, is a contracted form for byri byri . Thus all the grounds of self-defence, which existed in the hearts of the accused, are both negatively and positively overthrown. They are thundered down and put to shame. The law (thorah), announced in v. 10, has been preached to them. The prophet has cast away the husks of their dead works, and brought out the moral kernel of the law in its universal application.
The first leading division of the address is brought to a close, and v. contains the turning-point between the two parts into which it is divided.
Hitherto Jehovah has spoken to His people in wrath. But His love began to move even in the admonitions in vv. 16, 17. And now this love, which desired not Israel’s destruction, but Israel’s inward and outward salvation, breaks fully through. V. 18. “O come, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah. If your sins come forth like scarlet cloth, they shall become white as snow; if they are red as crimson, they shall come forth like wool!”
Jehovah here challenges Israel to a formal trial: nocach is thus used in a reciprocal sense, and with the same meaning as nishpat in Isa 43:26 (Ges. §51, 2). In such a trial Israel must lose, for Israel’s self-righteousness rests upon sham righteousness; and this sham righteousness, when rightly examined, is but unrighteousness dripping with blood.
It is taken for granted that this must be the result of the investigation. Israel is therefore worthy of death. Yet Jehovah will not treat Israel according to His retributive justice, but according to His free compassion. He will remit the punishment, and not only regard the sin as not existing, but change it into its very opposite. The reddest possible sin shall become, through His mercy, the purest white. On the two hiphils here applied to colour, see Ges. §53, 2; though he gives the meaning incorrectly, viz., “to take a colour,” whereas the words signify rather to emit a colour: not colorem accipere, but colorem dare. Shâni, bright red (the plural shânim, as in Prov 31:21, signifies materials dyed with shâni), and tolâ, warm colour, are simply different names for the same colour, viz., the crimson obtained from the cochineal insect, color cocccineus. The representation of the work of grace promised by God as a change from red to white, is founded upon the symbolism of colours, quite as much as when the saints in the Revelation (Rev 19:8) are described as clothed in white raiment, whilst the clothing of Babylon is purple and scarlet (Isa 17:4).
Red is the colour of fire, and therefore of life: the blood is red because life is a fiery process. For this reason the heifer, from which the ashes of purification were obtained for those who had been defiled through contact with the dead, was to be red; and the sprinkling-brush, with which the unclean were sprinkled, was to be tied round with a band of scarlet wool.
But red as contrasted with white, the colour of light (Matt 17:2), is the colour of selfish, covetous, passionate life, which is self-seeking in its nature, which goes out of itself only to destroy, and drives about with wild tempestuous violence: it is therefore the colour of wrath and sin. It is generally supposed that Isaiah speaks of red as the colour of sin, because sin ends in murder; and this is not really wrong, though it is too restricted.
Sin is called red, inasmuch as it is a burning heat which consumes a man, and when it breaks forth consumes his fellow-man as well.
According to the biblical view, throughout, sin stands in the same relation to what is well-pleasing to God, and wrath in the same relation to love or grace, as fire to light; and therefore as red to white, or black to white, for red and black are colours which border upon one another. In the Song of Solomon (Isa 7:5), the black locks of Shulamith are described as being “like purple,” and Homer applies the same epithet to the dark waves of the sea. But the ground of this relation lies deeper still. Red is the colour of fire, which flashes out of darkness and returns to it again; whereas white without any admixture of darkness represents the pure, absolute triumph of light. It is a deeply significant symbol of the act of justification. Jehovah offers to Israel an actio forensis, out of which it shall come forth justified by grace, although it has merited death on account of its sins. The righteousness, white as snow and wool, with which Israel comes forth, is a gift conferred upon it out of pure compassion, without being conditional upon any legal performance whatever. ISAIAH 1:19-20 But after the restoration of Israel in integrum by this act of grace, the rest would unquestionably depend upon the conduct of Israel itself. According to Israel’s own decision would Jehovah determine Israel’s future. Vv. 19, 20. “If ye then shall willingly hear, ye shall eat the good of the land; if ye shall obstinately rebel, ye shall be eaten by the sword: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it.” After their justification, both blessing and cursing lay once more before the justified, as they had both been long before proclaimed by the law (compare v. 19b with Deut 28:3ff., Lev 26:3ff., and v. 20b with the threat of vengeance with the sword in Lev 26:25). The promise of eating, i.e., of the full enjoyment of domestic blessings, and therefore of settled, peaceful rest at home, is placed in contrast with the curse of being eaten with the sword. Chereb (the sword) is the accusative of the instrument, as in Ps 17:13-14; but this adverbial construction without either genitive, adjective, or suffix, as in Ex 30:20, is very rarely met with (Ges. §138, Anm. 3); and in the passage before us it is a bold construction which the prophet allows himself, instead of saying, lkæa; br,j, , for the sake of the paronomasia (Böttcher, Collectanea, p. 161).
In the conditional clauses the two futures are followed by two preterites (compare Lev 26:21, which is more in conformity with our western mode of expression), inasmuch as obeying and rebelling are both of them consequences of an act of will: if ye shall be willing, and in consequence of this obey; if ye shall refuse, and rebel against Jehovah. They are therefore, strictly speaking, perfecta consecutiva. According to the ancient mode of writing, the passage vv. 18-20 formed a separate parashah by themselves, viz., a sethumah, or parashah indicated by spaces left within the line. The piskah after v. 20 corresponds to a long pause in the mind of the speaker.- Will Israel tread the saving path of forgiveness thus opened before it, and go on to renewed obedience, and will it be possible for it to be brought back by this path? Individuals possibly may, but not the whole. The divine appeal therefore changes now into a mournful complaint. So peaceful a solution as this of the discord between Jehovah and His children was not to be hoped for. Jerusalem was far too depraved.
“How is she become a harlot, the faithful citadel! she, full of right, lodged in righteousness, and now-murderers.” It is the keynote of an elegy (kinah) which is sounded here. Ëyae , and but rarely Ëyae , which is an abbreviated form, is expressive of complaint and amazement. This longer form, like a long-drawn sigh, is a characteristic of the kinah. The kinoth (Lamentations) of Jeremiah commence with it, and receive their title from it; whereas the shorter form is indicative of scornful complaining, and is characteristic of the mâshôl (e.g., Isa 14:4,12; Mic 2:4). From this word, which gives the keynote, the rest all follows, soft, full, monotonous, long drawn out and slow, just in the style of an elegy. We may see clearly enough that forms like ytia\lim] for taælem] , softened by lengthening, were adapted to elegiac compositions, from the first verse of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, where three of these forms occur. Jerusalem had previously been a faithful city, i.e., one stedfastly adhering to the covenant of Jehovah with her (vid., Ps 78:37). f9 This covenant was a marriage covenant. And she had broken it, and had thereby become a zonâh (harlot)-a prophetic view, the germs of which had already been given in the Pentateuch, where the worship of idols on the part of Israel is called whoring after them (Deut 31:16; Ex 34:15-16; in all, seven times). It was not, however, merely gross outward idolatry which made the church of God a “harlot,” but infidelity of heart, in whatever form it might express itself; so that Jesus described the people of His own time as an “adulterous generation,” notwithstanding the pharisaical strictness with which the worship of Jehovah was then observed. For, as the verse before us indicates, this marriage relation was founded upon right and righteousness in the broadest sense: mishpat, “right,” i.e., a realization of right answering to the will of God as positively declared; and tzedek, “righteousness,” i.e., a righteous state moulded by that will, or a righteous course of conduct regulated according to it (somewhat different, therefore, from the more qualitative tzedâkâh).
Jerusalem was once full of such right; and righteousness was not merely there in the form of a hastily passing guest, but had come down from above to take up her permanent abode in Jerusalem: she tarried there day and night as if it were her home. The prophet had in his mind the times of David and Solomon, and also more especially the time of Jehoshaphat (about one hundred and fifty years before Isaiah’s appearance), who restored the administration of justice, which had fallen into neglect since the closing years of Solomon’s reign and the time of Rehoboam and Abijah, to which Asa’s reformation had not extended, and re-organized it entirely in the spirit of the law. It is possible also that Jehoiada, the high priest in the time of Joash, may have revived the institutions of Jehoshaphat, so far as they had fallen into disuse under his three godless successors; but even in the second half of the reign of Joash, the administration of justice fell into the same disgraceful state, at least as compared with the times of David, Solomon, and Jehoshaphat, as that in which Isaiah found it. The glaring contrast between the present and the past is indicated by the expression “and now.” In all the correct MSS and editions, mishpat is not accented with zakeph, but with rebia; and bâh, which ought to have zakeph, is accented with tiphchah, on account of the brevity of the following clause. In this way the statement as to the past condition is sufficiently distinguished from that relating to the present. f10 Formerly righteousness, now “murderers” (merazzechim), and indeed, as distinguished from rozechim, murderers by profession, who formed a band, like king Ahab and his son (2 Kings 6:32). The contrast was as glaring as possible, since murder is the direct opposite, the most crying violation, of righteousness.
The complaint now turns from the city generally to the authorities, and first of all figuratively. V. 22. “Thy silver has become dross, thy drink mutilated with water.” It is upon this passage that the figurative language of Jer 6:27ff. and Ezek 22:18-22 is founded. Silver is here a figurative representation of the princes and lords, with special reference to the nobility of character naturally associated with nobility of birth and rank; for silver-refined silver-is an image of all that is noble and pure, light in all its purity being reflected by it (Bähr, Symbolik, i. 284). The princes and lords had once possessed all the virtues which the Latins called unitedly candor animi, viz., the virtues of magnanimity, affability, impartiality, and superiority to bribes. This silver had now become l’sigim , dross, or base metal separated (thrown off) from silver in the process of refining (sig, pl. sigim, siggim from sug, recedere, refuse left in smelting, or dross: cf., Prov 25:4; 26:23). A second figure compares the leading men of the older Jerusalem to good wine, such as drinkers like. The word employed here (sobe) must have been used in this sense by the more cultivated classes in Isaiah’s time (cf., Nah 1:10). This pure, strong, and costly wine was now adulterated with water (lit. castratum, according to Pliny’s expression in the Natural History: compare the Horatian phrase, jugulare Falernum), and therefore its strength and odour were weakened, and its worth was diminished. The present was nothing but the dross and shadow of the past.
In v. 23 the prophet says this without a figure: “Thy rulers are rebellious, and companions of thieves; every one loveth presents, and hunteth after payment; the orphan they right not, and the cause of the widow has no access to them.” In two words the prophet depicts the contemptible baseness of the national rulers (sârim). He describes first of all their baseness in relation to God, with the alliterative sorerim: rebellious, refractory; and then, in relation to men, companions of thieves, inasmuch as they allowed themselves to be bribed by presents of stolen goods to acts of injustice towards those who had been robbed. They not only willingly accepted such bribes, and that not merely a few of them, but every individual belonging to the rank of princes (cullo, equivalent to haccol, the whole: every one loveth gifts); but they went eagerly in pursuit of them (rodeph). It was not peace (shâlom) that they hunted after (Ps 34:16), but shalmonim, things that would pacify their avarice; not what was good, but compensation for their partiality.-This was the existing state of Jerusalem, and therefore it would hardly be likely to take the way of mercy opened before it in v. 18; consequently Jehovah would avail himself of other means of setting it right:- ISAIAH 1:24 “Therefore, saying of the Lord, of Jehovah of hosts, of the Strong One of Israel: Ah! I will relieve myself on mine adversaries, and will avenge myself upon mine enemies.” Salvation through judgment was the only means of improvement and preservation left to the congregation, which called itself by the name of Jerusalem. Jehovah would therefore afford satisfaction to His holiness, and administer a judicial sifting to Jerusalem. There is no other passage in Isaiah in which we meet with such a crowding together of different names of God as we do here (compare Isa 19:4; 3:1; 10:16,33; 3:15). With three names, descriptive of the irresistible omnipotence of God, the irrevocable decree of a sifting judgment is sealed. The word µaun] , which is used here instead of rmæa; and points back to a verb µaæn; , related to µhæn; and hm;h; , corresponds to the deep, earnest pathos of the words. These verbs, which are imitations of sounds, all denote a dull hollow groaning. The word used here, therefore, signifies that which is spoken with significant secrecy and solemn softness. It is never written absolutely, but is always followed by the subject who speaks (saying of Jehovah it is, i.e., Jehovah says). We meet with it first of all in Gen 22:16. In the prophetic writings it occurs in Obadiah and Joel, but most frequently in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It is generally written at the close of the sentence, or parenthetically in the middle; very rarely at the commencement, as it is here and in 1 Sam 2:30 and Ps 110:1. The “saying” commences with hoi (ah!), the painfulness of pity being mingled with the determined outbreak of wrath. By the side of the niphal nikkam min (to be revenged upon a person) we find the niphal nicham (lit. to console one’s self). The two words are derived from kindred roots. The latter is conjugated with e in the preformative syllable, the former with i, according to the older system of vowel-pointing adopted in the East.
Jehovah would procure Himself relief from His enemies by letting out upon them the wrath with which He had hitherto been burdened (Ezek 5:13). He now calls the masses of Jerusalem by their right name.
V. 25 states clearly in what the revenge consisted with which Jehovah was inwardly burdened (innakmah, a cohortative with the ah, indicating internal oppression): “And I will bring my hand over thee, and will smelt out thy dross as with alkali, and will clear away all thy lead.” As long as God leaves a person’s actions or sufferings alone, His hand, i.e., His acting, is at rest. Bringing the hand over a person signifies a movement of the hand, which has been hitherto at rest, either for the purpose of inflicting judicial punishment upon the person named (Amos 1:8; Jer 6:9; Ezek 38:12; Ps 81:15), or else, though this is seldom the case, for the purpose of saving him (Zech 13:7). The reference here is to the divine treatment of Jerusalem, in which punishment and salvation were combined-punishment as the means, salvation as the end. The interposition of Jehovah was, as it were, a smelting, which would sweep away, not indeed Jerusalem itself, but the ungodly in Jerusalem. They are compared to dross, or (as the verb seems to imply) to ore mixed with dross, and, inasmuch as lead is thrown off in the smelting of silver, to such ingredients of lead as Jehovah would speedily and thoroughly remove, “like alkali,” i.e., “as if with alkali” (cabbor, comparatio decurtata, for c’babbor: for this mode of dropping Beth after Caph, compare Isa 9:3; Lev 22:13, and many other passages).
By bedilim (from bâdal, to separate) we are to understand the several pieces of stannum or lead have been employed from the very earliest times to accelerate the process of smelting, for the purpose of separating a metal from its ore.
As the threat couched in the previous figure does not point to the destruction, but simply to the smelting of Jerusalem, there is nothing strange in the fact that in v. 26 it should pass over into a pure promise; the meltingly soft and yearningly mournful termination of the clauses with ayich, the keynote of the later songs of Zion, being still continued. “And I will bring back thy judges as in the olden time, and thy counsellors as in the beginning; afterwards thou wilt be called city of righteousness, faithful citadel.” The threat itself was, indeed, relatively a promise, inasmuch as whatever could stand the fire would survive the judgment; and the distinct object of this was to bring back Jerusalem to the purer metal of its own true nature. But when that had been accomplished, still more would follow.
The indestructible kernel that remained would be crystallized, since Jerusalem would receive back from Jehovah the judges and counsellors which it had had in the olden flourishing times of the monarchy, ever since it had become the city of David and of the temple; not, indeed, the very same persons, but persons quite equal to them in excellence. Under such God-given leaders Jerusalem would become what it had once been, and what it ought to be. The names applied to the city indicate the impression produced by the manifestation of its true nature. The second name is written without the article, as in fact the word kiryah (city), with its massive, definite sound, always is in Isaiah. Thus did Jehovah announce the way which it had been irrevocably determined that He would take with Israel, as the only way to salvation. Moreover, this was the fundamental principle of the government of God, the law of Israel’s history.
V. 27 presents it in a brief and concise form: “Sion will be redeemed through judgment, and her returning ones through righteousness.” Mishpat and tzedâkâh are used elsewhere for divine gifts (Isa 33:5; 28:6), for such conduct as is pleasing to God (ch. 1:21; 32:16), and for royal Messianic virtues (Isa 9:6; 11:3-5; 16:5; 32:1). Here, however, where we are helped by the context, they are to be interpreted according to such parallel passages as Isa 4:4; 5:16; 28:17, as signifying God’s right and righteousness in their primarily judicious self-fulfilment. A judgment, on the part of God the righteous One, would be the means by which Zion itself, so far as it had remained faithful to Jehovah, and those who were converted in the midst of the judgment, would be redeemed-a judgment upon sinners and sin, by which the power that had held in bondage the divine nature of Zion, so far as it still continued to exist, would be broken, and in consequence of which those who turned to Jehovah would be incorporated into His true church. Whilst, therefore, God was revealing Himself in His punitive righteousness; He was working out a righteousness which would be bestowed as a gift of grace upon those who escaped the former. The notion of “righteousness” is now following a New Testament track. In front it has the fire of the law; behind, the love of the gospel.
Love is concealed behind the wrath, like the sun behind the thunder-clouds.
Zion, so far as it truly is or is becoming Zion, is redeemed, and none but the ungodly are destroyed. But, as is added in the next verse, the latter takes place without mercy.
“And breaking up of the rebellious and sinners together; and those who forsake Jehovah will perish.” The judicial side of the approaching act of redemption is here expressed in a way that all can understand. The exclamatory substantive clause in the first half of the verse is explained by a declaratory verbal clause in the second. The “rebellious” were those who had both inwardly and outwardly broken away from Jehovah; “sinners,” those who were living in open sins; and “those who forsake Jehovah,” such as had become estranged from God in either of these ways.
Ver. 29 declares how God’s judgment of destruction would fall upon all of these. The verse is introduced with an explanatory “for” (chi): “For they become ashamed of the terebinths, in which ye had your delight; and ye must blush for the gardens, in which ye took pleasure.” The terebinths and gardens (the second word with the article, as in Hab 3:8, first binharim, then banneharim) are not referred to as objects of luxury, as Hitzig and Drechsler assume, but as unlawful places of worship and objects of worship (see Deut 16:21). They are both of them frequently mentioned by the prophets in this sense (Isa 57:5; 65:3; 66:17): châmor and bâchar are also the words commonly applied to an arbitrary choice of false gods (Isa 44:9; 41:24; 66:3), and bosh min is the general phrase used to denote the shame which falls upon idolaters, when the worthlessness of their idols becomes conspicuous through their impotence. On the difference between bosh and châpher, see the comm. on Ps 35:4. f13 The word elim is erroneously translated “idols” in the Septuagint and other ancient versions. The feeling which led to this, however, was a correct one, since the places of worship really stand for the idols worshipped in those places. f14 The excited state of the prophet at the close of his prophecy is evinced by his abrupt leap from an exclamation to a direct address (Ges. §137, Anm. 3).
Ver. 31 shows in a third figure where this spark was to come from: “And the rich man becomes tow, and his work the spark; and they will both burn together, and no one extinguishes them.” The form poalo suggests at first a participial meaning (its maker), but ˆsoj; would be a very unusual epithet to apply to an idol. Moreover, the figure itself would be a distorted one, since the natural order would be, that the idol would be the thing that kindled the fire, and the man the object to be set on fire, and not the reverse. We therefore follow the LXX, Targ., and Vulg., with Gesenius and other more recent grammarians, and adopt the rendering “his work” (opus ejus). The forms l[æpo and wOll\po (cf., Isa 52:14 and Jer 22:13) are two equally admissible changes of the ground-form l[æpo ( wOlpu ). As v. 29 refers to idolatrous worship, poalo (his work) is an idol, a god made by human hands (cf., Isa 2:8; 37:19, etc.). The prosperous idolater, who could give gold and silver for idolatrous images out of the abundance of his possessions (châson is to be interpreted in accordance with Isa 33:6), becomes tow (talm. “the refuse of flax:” the radical meaning is to shake out, viz., in combing), and the idol the spark which sets this mass of fibre in flames, so that they are both irretrievably consumed. For the fire of judgment, by which sinners are devoured, need not come from without. Sin carries the fire of indignation within itself. And an idol is, as it were, an idolater’s sin embodied and exposed to the light of day. The date of the composition of this first prophecy is a puzzle. Caspari thoroughly investigated every imaginary possibility, and at last adopted the conclusion that it dates from the time of Uzziah, inasmuch as vv. 7-9 do not relate to an actual, but merely to an ideal, present. But notwithstanding all the acuteness with which Caspari has worked out his view, it still remains a very forced one. The oftener we return to the reading of this prophetic address, the stronger is our impression that vv. 7-9 contain a description of the state of things which really existed at the time when the words were spoken. There were actually two devastations of the land of Judah which occurred during the ministry of Isaiah, and in which Jerusalem was only spared by the miraculous interposition of Jehovah: one under Ahaz in the year of the Syro-Ephraimitish war; the other under Hezekiah, when the Assyrian forces laid the land waste but were scattered at last in their attack upon Jerusalem. The year of the Syro-Ephraimitish war is supported by Gesenius, Rosenmüller (who expresses a different opinion in every one of the three editions of his Scholia), Maurer, Movers, Knobel, Hävernick, and others; the time of the Assyrian oppression by Hitzig, Umbreit, Drechsler, and Luzzatto. Now, whichever of these views we may adopt, there will still remain, as a test of its admissiblity, the difficult question, How did this prophecy come to stand at the head of the book, if it belonged to the time of Uzziah-Jotham? This question, upon which the solution of the difficulty depends, can only be settled when we come to ch. 6. Till then, the date of the composition of ch. 1 must be left undecided. It is enough for the present to know, that, according to the accounts given in the books of Kings and Chronicles, there were two occasions when the situation of Jerusalem resembled the one described in the present chapter.
THE WAY OF GENERAL JUDGMENT; OR THE COURSE OF ISRAEL FROM FALSE GLORY TO THE TRUE ISAIAH. 2:1
The limits of this address are very obvious. The end of ch. 4 connects itself with the beginning of ch. 2, so as to form a circle. After various alternations of admonition, reproach, and threatening, the prophet reaches at last the object of the promise with which he started. Ch. 5, on the other hand, commences afresh with a parable. It forms an independent address, although it is included, along with the previous chapters, under the heading in Isa 2:1: “The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw over Judah and Jerusalem.” Ch. 2-5 may have existed under this heading before the whole collection arose. It was then adopted in this form into the general collection, so as to mark the transition from the prologue to the body of the book. The prophet describes what he here says concerning Judah and Jerusalem as “the word which he saw.” When men speak to one another, the words are not seen, but heard. But when God spoke to the prophet, it was in a supersensuous way, and the prophet saw it. The mind indeed has no more eyes than ears; but a mind qualified to perceive what is supersensuous is altogether eye.
The manner in which Isaiah commences this second address is altogether unparalleled. There is no other example of a prophecy beginning with hy;h; .
And it is very easy to discover the reason why. The praet. consecutivum v’hâyâh derives the force of a future from the context alone; whereas the fut. consecutivum vay’hi (with which historical books and sections very generally commence) is shown to be an aorist by its simple form.
Moreover, the Vav in the fut. consecut. has almost entirely lost its copulative character; in the praet. consec., on the other hand, it retains it with all the greater force. The prophet therefore commences with “and”; and it is from what follows, not from what goes before, that we learn that hayah is used in a future sense. But this is not the only strange thing. It is also an unparalleled occurrence, for a prophetic address, which runs as this does through all the different phases of the prophetic discourses generally (viz., exhortation, reproof, threatening, and promise), to commence with a promise. We are in a condition, however, to explain the cause of this remarkable phenomenon with certainty, and not merely to resort to conjecture. Vv. 2-4 do not contain Isaiah’s own words, but the words of another prophet taken out of their connection. We find them again in Mic 4:1-4; and whether Isaiah took them from Micah, or whether both Isaiah and Micah took them from some common source, in either case they were not originally Isaiah’s. f15 Nor was it even intended that they should appear to be his. Isaiah has not fused them into the general flow of his own prophecy, as the prophets usually do with the predictions of their predecessors. He does not reproduce them, but, as we may observe from the abrupt commencement, he quote them. It is true, this hardly seems to tally with the heading, which describes what follows as the word of Jehovah which Isaiah saw. But the discrepancy is only an apparent one. It was the spirit of prophecy, which called to Isaiah’s remembrance a prophetic saying that had already been uttered, and made it the starting-point of the thoughts which followed in Isaiah’s mind. The borrowed promise is not introduced for its own sake, but is simply a self-explaining introduction to the exhortations and threatenings which follow, and through which the prophet works his way to a conclusion of his own, that is closely intertwined with the borrowed commencement.
The subject of the borrowed prophecy is Israel’s future glory: “And it cometh to pass at the end of the days, the mountain of the house of Jehovah will be set at the top of the mountains, and exalted over hills; and all nations pour unto it.” The expression “the last days” (acharith hayyamim, “the end of the days”), which does not occur anywhere else in Isaiah, is always used in an eschatological sense. It never refers to the course of history immediately following the time being, but invariably indicates the furthest point in the history of this life-the point which lies on the outermost limits of the speaker’s horizon. This horizon was a very fluctuating one. The history of prophecy is just the history of its gradual extension, and of the filling up of the intermediate space. In Jacob’s blessing (Gen 49) the conquest of the land stood in the foreground of the acharith or last days, and the perspective was regulated accordingly.
But here in Isaiah the acharith contained no such mixing together of events belonging to the more immediate and the most distant future. It was therefore the last time in its most literal and purest sense, commencing with the beginning of the New Testament aeon, and terminating at its close (compare Heb 1:1; 1 Peter 1:20, with 1 Cor 15 and the Revelation). The prophet here predicted that the mountain which bore the temple of Jehovah, and therefore was already in dignity the most exalted of all mountains, would. one day tower in actual height above all the high places of the earth. The basaltic mountains of Bashan, which rose up in bold peaks and columns, might now look down with scorn and contempt upon the small limestone hill which Jehovah had chosen (Ps 68:16-17); but this was an incongruity which the last times would remove, by making the outward correspond to the inward, the appearance to the reality and the intrinsic worth.
That this is the prophet’s meaning is confirmed by Ezek 40:2, where the temple mountain looks gigantic to the prophet, and also by Zech 14:10, where all Jerusalem is described as towering above the country round about, which would one day become a plain. The question how this can possibly take place in time, since it presupposes a complete subversion of the whole of the existing order of the earth’s surface, is easily answered.
The prophet saw the new Jerusalem of the last days on this side, and the new Jerusalem of the new earth on the other (Rev 21:10), blended as it were together, and did not distinguish the one from the other. But whilst we thus avoid all unwarrantable spiritualizing, it still remains a question what meaning the prophet attached to the word b’rosh (“at the top”). Did he mean that Moriah would one day stand upon the top of the mountains that surrounded it (as in Ps 72:16), or that it would stand at their head (as in 1 Kings 21:9,12; Amos 6:7; Jer 31:7)?
The former is Hofmann’s view, as given in his Weissagung und Erfüllung, ii. 217: “he did not indeed mean that the mountains would be piled up one upon the other, and the temple mountain upon the top, but that the temple mountain would appear to float upon the summit of the others.” But as the expression “will be set” (nacon) does not favour this apparently romantic exaltation, and b’rosh occurs more frequently in the sense of “at the head” than in that of “on the top,” I decide for my own part in favour of the second view, though I agree so far with Hofmann, that it is not merely an exaltation of the temple mountain in the estimation of the nations that is predicted, but a physical and external elevation also. And when thus outwardly exalted, the divinely chosen mountain would become the rendezvous and centre of unity for all nations. They would all “flow unto it” (nâhar, a denom. verb, from nâhâr, a river, as in Jer 51:44; 31:12).
It is the temple of Jehovah which, being thus rendered visible to nations afar off, exerts such magnetic attraction, and with such success. Just as at a former period men had been separated and estranged from one another in the plain of Shinar, and thus different nations had first arisen; so would the nations at a future period assemble together on the mountain of the house of Jehovah, and there, as members of one family, live together in amity again. And as Babel (confusion, as its name signifies) was the place whence the stream of nations poured into all the world; so would Jerusalem (the city of peace) become the place into which the stream of nations would empty itself, and where all would be reunited once more. At the present time there was only one people, viz., Israel, which made pilgrimages to Zion on the great festivals, but it would be very different then.
“And peoples in multitude go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; let Him instruct us out of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” This is their signal for starting, and their song by the way (cf., Zech 8:21-22). What urges them on is the desire for salvation. Desire for salvation expresses itself in the name they give to the point towards which they are travelling: they call Moriah “the mountain of Jehovah,” and the temple upon it “the house of the God of Jacob.” Through frequent use, Israel had become the popular name for the people of God; but the name they employ is the choicer name Jacob, which is the name of affection in the mouth of Micah, of whose style we are also reminded by the expression “many peoples” (ammim rabbim). Desire for salvation expresses itself in the object of their journey; they wish Jehovah to teach them “out of His ways,”-a rich source of instruction with which they desire to be gradually entrusted.
The preposition min (out of, or from) is not partitive here, but refers, as in Ps 94:12, to the source of instruction. The “ways of Jehovah” are the ways which God Himself takes, and by which men are led by Him-the revealed ordinances of His will and action. Desire for salvation also expresses itself in the resolution with which they set out: they not only wish to learn, but are resolved to act according to what they learn. “We will walk in His paths:” the hortative is used here, as it frequently is (e.g., Gen 27:4, vid., Ges. §128, 1, c), to express either the subjective intention or subjective conclusion. The words supposed to be spoken by the multitude of heathen going up to Zion terminate here. The prophet then adds the reason and object of this holy pilgrimage of the nations: “For instruction will go out from Zion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.” The principal emphasis is upon the expressions “from Zion” and “from Jerusalem.” It is a triumphant utterance of the sentiment that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).
From Zion-Jerusalem there would go forth thorah, i.e., instruction as to the questions which man has to put to God, and debar Jehovah, the word of Jehovah, which created the world at first, and by which it is spiritually created anew. Whatever promotes the true prosperity of the nations, comes from Zion-Jerusalem. There the nations assemble together; they take it thence to their own homes, and thus Zion-Jerusalem becomes the fountain of universal good. For from the time that Jehovah made choice of Zion, the holiness of Sinai was transferred to Zion (Ps 68:17), which now presented the same aspect as Sinai had formerly done, when God invested it with holiness by appearing there in the midst of myriads of angels. What had been commenced at Sinai for Israel, would be completed at Zion for all the world. This was fulfilled on that day of Pentecost, when the disciples, the first-fruits of the church of Christ, proclaimed the thorah of Zion, i.e., the gospel, in the languages of all the world. It was fulfilled, as Theodoret observes, in the fact that the word of the gospel, rising from Jerusalem “as from a fountain,” flowed through the whole of the known world. But these fulfilments were only preludes to a conclusion which is still to be looked for in the future. For what is promised in the following verse is still altogether unfulfilled.
“And He will judge between the nations, and deliver justice to many peoples; and they forge their swords into coulters, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation lifts not up the sword against nation, neither do they exercise themselves in war any more.” Since the nations betake themselves in this manner as pupils to the God of revelation and the word of His revelation, He becomes the supreme judge and umpire among them. If any dispute arise, it is no longer settled by the compulsory force of war, but by the word of God, to which all bow with willing submission. With such power as this in the peace-sustaining word of God (Zech 9:10), there is no more need for weapons of iron: they are turned into the instruments of peaceful employment, into ittim (probably a synonym for ethim in 1 Sam 13:21), plough-knives or coulters, which cut the furrows for the ploughshare to turn up and mazmeroth, bills or pruning-hooks, with which vines are pruned to increase their fruit-bearing power.
There is also no more need for military practice, for there is no use in exercising one’s self in what cannot be applied. It is useless, and men dislike it. There is peace, not an armed peace, but a full, true, God-given and blessed peace. What even a Kant regarded as possible is now realized, and that not by the so-called Christian powers, but by the power of God, who favours the object for which an Elihu Burritt enthusiastically longs, rather than the politics of the Christian powers. It is in war that the power of the beast culminates in the history of the world. This beast will then be destroyed. The true humanity which sin has choked up will gain the mastery, and the world’s history will keep Sabbath. And may we not indulge the hope, on the ground of such prophetic words as these, that the history of the world will not terminate without having kept a Sabbath?
Shall we correct Isaiah, according to Quenstedt, lest we should become chiliasts? “The humanitarian ideas of Christendom,” says a thoughtful Jewish scholar, “have their roots in the Pentateuch, and more especially in Deuteronomy. But in the prophets, particularly in Isaiah, they reach a height which will probably not be attained and fully realized by the modern world for centuries to come.” Yet they will be realized. What the prophetic words appropriated by Isaiah here affirm, is a moral postulate, the goal of sacred history, the predicted counsel of God.
Isaiah presents himself to his contemporaries with this older prophecy of the exalted and world-wide calling of the people of Jehovah, holds it up before them as a mirror, and exclaims in v. 5, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of Jehovah.” This exhortation is formed under the influence of the context, from which vv. 2-4 are taken, as we may see from Mic 4:5, and also of the quotation itself. The use of the term Jacob instead of Israel is not indeed altogether strange to Isaiah (Isa 8:17; 10:20-21; 29:23), but he prefers the use of Israel (compare Isa 1:24 with Gen 49:24).
With the words “O house of Jacob” he now turns to his people, whom so glorious a future awaits, because Jehovah has made it the scene of His manifested presence and grace, and summons it to walk in the light of such a God, to whom all nations will press at the end of the days. The summons, “Come, let us walk,” is the echo of v. 3, “Come, let us go;” and as Hitzig observes, “Isaiah endeavours, like Paul in Rom 11:14, to stir up his countrymen to a noble jealousy, by setting before them the example of the heathen.” The “light of Jehovah” (‘or Jehovah, in which the echo of v’yorenu in v. 3 is hardly accidental; cf., Prov 6:23) is the knowledge of Jehovah Himself, as furnished by means of positive revelation, His manifested love. It was now high time to walk in the light of Jehovah, i.e., to turn this knowledge into life, and reciprocate this love; and it was especially necessary to exhort Israel to this, now that Jehovah had given up His people, just because in their perverseness they had done the very opposite. This mournful declaration, which the prophet was obliged to make in order to explain his warning cry, he changes into the form of a prayerful sigh.
“For Thou hast rejected Thy people, the house of Jacob; for they are filled with things from the east, and are conjurors like the Philistines; and with the children of foreigners they go hand in hand.” Here again we have “for” (chi) twice in succession; the first giving the reason for the warning cry, the second vindicating the reason assigned. The words are addressed to Jehovah, not to the people. Saad., Gecatilia, and Rashi adopt the rendering, “Thou has given up thy nationality;” and this rendering is supported by J.
D. Michaelis, Hitzig, and Luzzatto. But the word means “people,” not “nationality;” and the rendering is inadmissible, and would never have been thought of were it not that there was apparently something strange in so sudden an introduction of an address to God. But in Isa 2:9; 9:2, and other passages, the prophecy takes the form of a prayer. And nâtash (cast off) with âm (people) for its object recals such passages as Ps 94:14 and 1 Sam 12:22. Jehovah had put away His people, i.e., rejected them, and left them to themselves, for the following reasons: (1.) Because they were “full from the east” (mikkedem: min denotes the source from which a person draws and fills himself, Jer 51:34; Ezek 32:6), i.e., full of eastern manners and customs, more especially of idolatrous practices. By “the east” (kedem) we are to understand Arabia as far as the peninsula of Sinai, and also the Aramaean lands of the Euphrates. Under Uzziah and Jotham, whose sway extended to Elath, the seaport town of the Elanitic Gulf, the influence of the south-east predominated; but under Ahaz and Hezekiah, on account of their relations to Asshur, Aram, and Babylon, that of the north-east. The conjecture of Gesenius, that we should read mikkesem, i.e., of soothsaying, it a very natural one; but it obliterates without any necessity the name of the region from which Judah’s imitative propensities received their impulse and materials. (2.) They were onenim (= meonenim, Mic 5:11, from the poel onen: Kings 21:6), probably “cloud-gatherers” or “storm-raisers,” like the Philistines (the people conquered by Uzziah, and then again by Hezekiah), among whom witchcraft was carried on in guilds, whilst a celebrated oracle of Baal-Zebub existed at Ekron. (3.) And they make common cause with children of foreigners. This is the explanation adopted by Gesenius, Knobel, and others. Sâphak with cappaim signifies to clap hands (Job 27:23). The hiphil followed by Beth is only used here in the sense of striking hands with a person. Luzzatto explains it as meaning, “They find satisfaction in the children of foreigners; it is only through them that they are contented;” but this is contrary to the usage of the language, according to which hispik in post-biblical Hebrew signifies either suppeditare or (like saphak in 1 Kings 20:10) sufficere.
Jerome renders it pueris alienis adhaeserunt; but yalde nâc’rim does not mean pueri alieni, boys hired for licentious purposes, but the “sons of strangers” generally (Isa 60:10; 61:5), with a strong emphasis upon their unsanctified birth, the heathenism inherited from their mother’s womb.
With heathen by birth, the prophet would say, the people of Jehovah made common cause.
In vv. 7, 8 he describes still further how the land of the people of Jehovah, in consequence of all this (on the future consec. see Ges. §129, 2, a), was crammed full of objects of luxury, of self-confidence, of estrangement from God: “And their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end of their treasures; and their land is filled with horses, and there is no end of their chariots. And their land is filled with-idols; the work of their own hands they worship, that which their own fingers have made.” The glory of Solomon, which revived under Uzziah’s fifty-two years’ reign, and was sustained through Jotham’s reign of sixteen years, carried with it the curse of the law; for the law of the king, in Deut 17:14ff., prohibited the multiplying of horses, and also the accumulation of gold and silver.
Standing armies, and stores of national treasures, like everything else which ministers to carnal self-reliance, were opposed to the spirit of the theocracy. Nevertheless Judaea was immeasurably full of such seductions to apostasy; and not of those alone, but also of things which plainly revealed it, viz., of elilim, idols (the same word is used in Lev 19:4; 26:1, from elil, vain or worthless; it is therefore equivalent to “not-gods”). They worshipped the work of “their own” hands, what “their own” fingers had made: two distributive singulars, as in Isa 5:23, the hands and fingers of every individual (vid., Mic 5:12-13, where the idols are classified). The condition of the land, therefore, was not only opposed to the law of the king, but at variance with the decalogue also. The existing glory was the most offensive caricature of the glory promised to the nation; for the people, whose God was one day to become the desire and salvation of all nations, had exchanged Him for the idols of the nations, and was vying with them in the appropriation of heathen religion and customs.
It was a state ripe for judgment, from which, therefore, the prophet could at once proceed, without any further preparation, to the proclamation of judgment itself. V. 9. “Thus, then, men are bowed down, and lords are brought low; and forgive them-no, that Thou wilt not.” The consecutive futures depict the judgment, as one which would follow by inward necessity from the worldly and ungodly glory of the existing state of things.
The future is frequently used in this way (for example, in Isa 9:7ff.). It was a judgment by which small and great, i.e., the people in all its classes, were brought down from their false eminence. “Men” and “lords” (âdâm and ish, as in Isa 5:15; Ps 49:3, and Prov 8:4, and like a>nqrwpov and anh>r in the Attic dialect), i.e., men who were lost in the crowd, and men who rose above it-all of them the judgment would throw down to the ground, and that without mercy (Rev 6:15).
The prophet expresses the conviction (al as in 2 Kings 6:27), that on this occasion God neither could nor would take away the sin by forgiving it.
There was nothing left for them, therefore, but to carry out the command of the prophet in v. 10: “Creep into the rock, and bury thyself in the dust, before the terrible look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty.”
The glorious nation would hide itself most ignominiously, when the only true glory of Jehovah, which had been rejected by it, was manifested in judgment. They would conceal themselves in holes of the rocks, as if before a hostile army (Judg 6:2; 1 Sam 13:6; 14:11), and bury themselves with their faces in the sand, as if before the fatal simoom of the desert, that they might not have to bear this intolerable sight. And when Jehovah manifested Himself in this way in the fiery glance of judgment, the result summed up in v. 11 must follow: “The people’s eyes of haughtiness are humbled, and the pride of their lords is bowed down; and Jehovah, He only, stands exalted in that day.” The result of the process of judgment is expressed in perfects: nisgab is the third pers. praet., not the participle:
Jehovah “is exalted,” i.e., shows Himself as exalted, whilst the haughty conduct of the people is brought down (shâphel is a verb, not an adjective; it is construed in the singular by attraction, and either refers to âdâm, man or people: Ges. §148, 1; or what is more probable, to the logical unity of the compound notion which is taken as subject, the constr. ad synesin s. sensum: Thiersch, §118), and the pride of the lords is bowed down (shach = shâchach, Job 9:13). The first strophe of the proclamation of judgment appended to the prophetic saying in vv. 2-4 is here brought to a close. The second strophe reaches to v. 17, where v. 11 is repeated as a concluding verse.
The expression “that day” suggests the inquiry, What day is referred to?
The prophet answers this question in the second strophe. V. 12. “For Jehovah of hosts hath a day over everything towering and lofty, and over everything exalted; and it becomes low.” “Jehovah hath a day” (yom layehovah), lit., there is to Jehovah a day, which already exists as a finished divine thought in that wisdom by which the course of history is guided (Isa 37:26, cf., 22:11), the secret of which He revealed to the prophets, who from the time of Obadiah and Joel downwards proclaimed that day with one uniform watchword. But when the time appointed for that day should arrive, it would pass out of the secret of eternity into the history of time-a day of world-wide judgment, which would pass, through the omnipotence with which Jehovah rules over the hither as well as lower spheres of the whole creation, upon all worldly glory, and it would be brought low (shaphel). The current accentuation of v. 12b is wrong; correct MSS have `l[æ with mercha, acnAlk with tifcha. The word v’shâphel (third pers. praet. with the root-vowel ee) acquires the force of a future, although no grammatical future precedes it, from the future character of the day itself: “and it will sink down” (Ges. §126, 4).
The glory of nature is followed by what is lofty and glorious in the world of men, such as magnificent fortifications, grand commercial buildings, and treasures which minister to the lust of the eye. Vv. 15, 16. “As upon every high tower, so upon every fortified wall. As upon all ships of Tarshish, so upon all works of curiosity.” It was by erecting fortifications for offence and defence, both lofty and steep (bâzur, praeruptus, from bâzar, abrumpere, secernere), that Uzziah and Jotham especially endeavoured to serve Jerusalem and the land at large. The chronicler relates, with reference to Uzziah, in 2 Chron 26, that he built strong towers above “the cornergate, the valley-gate, and the southern point of the cheesemakers’ hollow,” and fortified these places, which had probably been till that time the weakest points in Jerusalem; also that he built towers in the desert (probably in the desert between Beersheba and Gaza, to increase the safety of the land, and the numerous flocks which were pastured in the shephelah, i.e., the western portion of southern Palestine). With regard to Jotham, it is related in both the book of Kings (2 Kings 15:32ff.) and the Chronicles, that he built the upper gate of the temple; and in the Chronicles (2 Chron 27) that he fortified the ‘Ofel, i.e., the southern spur of the temple hill, still more strongly, and built cities on the mountains of Judah, and erected castles and towers in the forests (to watch for hostile attacks and ward them off).
Hezekiah also distinguished himself by building enterprises of this kind (2 Chron 32:27-30). But the allusion to the ships of Tarshish takes us to the times of Uzziah and Jotham, and not to those of Hezekiah (as Ps 48:7 does to the time of Jehoshaphat); for the seaport town of Elath, which was recovered by Uzziah, was lost again to the kingdom of Judah during the reign of Ahaz. Jewish ships sailed from this Elath (Ailath) through the Red Sea and round the coast of Africa to the harbour of Tartessus, the ancient Phoenician emporium of the maritime region watered by the Baetis (Guadalquivir), which abounded in silver, and then returned through the Pillars of Hercules (the Straits of Gibraltar: vid., Duncker, Gesch. i. 312- 315). It was to these Tartessus vessels that the expression “ships of Tarshish” primarily referred, though it was afterwards probably applied to mercantile ships in general. The following expression, “works of curiosity” (sechiyyoth hachemdah), is taken in far too restricted a sense by those who limit it, as the LXX have done, to the ships already spoken of, or understand it, as Gesenius does, as referring to beautiful flags. Jerome’s rendering is correct: “et super omne quod visu pulcrum est” (and upon everything beautiful to look at); seciyyâh, from sâcâh, to look (see Job, p. 468), is sight generally. The reference therefore is to all kinds of works of art, whether in sculpture or paintings (mascith is used of both), which delighted the observer by their imposing, tasteful appearance. Possibly, however, there is a more especial reference to curiosities of art and nature, which were brought by the trading vessels from foreign lands. ISAIAH 2:17 Ver. 17 closes the second strophe of the proclamation of judgment appended to the earlier prophetic word: “And the haughtiness of the people is bowed down, and the pride of the lords brought low; and Jehovah, He alone, stands exalted on that day.” The closing refrain only varies a little from v. 11. The subjects of the verbs are transposed. With a feminine noun denoting a thing, it is almost a rule that the predicate shall be placed before it in masculine (Ges. §147, a).
The closing refrain of the next two strophes is based upon the concluding clause of v. 10. The proclamation of judgment turns now to the elilim, which, as being at the root of all the evil, occupied the lowest place in the things of which the land was full (vv. 7, 8). In a short verse of one clause consisting of only three words, their future is declared as it were with a lightning-flash. V. 18. “And the idols utterly pass away.” The translation shows the shortness of the verse, but not the significant synallage numeri.
The idols are one and all a mass of nothingness, which will be reduced to absolute annihilation: they will vanish câlil, i.e., either “they will utterly perish” (funditus peribunt), or, as câlil is not used adverbially in any other passage, “they will all perish” (tota peribunt, Judg 20:40)-their images, their worship, even their names and their memory (Zech 13:2).
Ver. 20 forms the commencement to the fourth strophe: “In that day will a man cast away his idols of gold and his idols of silver, which they made for him to worship, to the moles and to the bats.” The traditional text separates lachpor peroth into two words, though without its being possible to discover what they are supposed to mean.
The reason for the separation was simply the fact that plurilitera were at one time altogether misunderstood and regarded as composita: for other plurilitera, written as two words, compare Isa 61:1; Hos 4:18; Jer 46:20.
The prophet certainly pronounced the word lachparpâroth (Ewald, §157, c); and chapharpârâh is apparently a mole (lit. thrower up of the soil), talpa, as it is rendered by Jerome and interpreted by Rashi. Gesenius and Knobel, however, have raised this objection, that the mole is never found in houses. But are we necessarily to assume that they would throw their idols into lumber-rooms, and not hide them in holes and crevices out of doors?
The mole, the shrew-mouse, and the bat, whose name (atalleph) is regarded by Schultens as a compound word (atal-eph, night-bird), are generically related, according to both ancient and modern naturalists. Bats are to birds what moles are to the smaller beasts of prey (vid., Levysohn, Zoologie des Talmud, p. 102).
The LXX combine with these two words l’hishtachavoth (to worship).
Malbim and Luzzatto adopt this rendering, and understand the words to mean that they would sink down to the most absurd descriptions of animal worship. But the accentuation, which does not divide the verse at `aasuwlow, as we should expect if this were the meaning, is based upon the correct interpretation. The idolaters, convinced of the worthlessness of their idols through the judicial interposition of God, and enraged at the disastrous manner in which they had been deceived, would throw away with curses the images of gold and silver which artists’ hands had made according to their instructions, and hide them in the holes of bats and in mole-hills, to conceal them from the eyes of the Judge, and then take refuge there themselves after ridding themselves of this useless and damnable burden.
ISAIAH 2:21,22 “To creep into the cavities of the stone-blocks, and into the clefts of the rocks, before the terrible look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty, when He arises to put the earth in terror.” Thus ends the fourth strophe of this “dies irae, dies illa,” which is appended to the earlier prophetic word. But there follows, as an epiphonem, this nota bene in v. 22: Oh, then, let man go, in whose nose is a breath; for what is he estimated at? The Septuagint leaves this verse out altogether. But was it so utterly unintelligible then? Jerome adopted a false pointing, and has therefore given this marvellous rendering: excelsus (bâmâh!) reputatus est ipse, by which Luther was apparently misled. But if we look backwards and forwards, it is impossible to mistake the meaning of the verse, which must be regarded not only as the resultant of what precedes it, but also as the transition to what follows.
It is preceded by the prediction of the utter demolition of everything which ministers to the pride and vain confidence of men; and in Isa 3:1ff. the same prediction is resumed, with a more special reference to the Jewish state, from which Jehovah is about to take away every prop, so that it shall utterly collapse. Accordingly the prophet exhorts, in v. 22, to a renunciation of trust in man, and everything belonging to him, just as in Ps 118:8-9; 146:3, and Jer 17:5. The construction is as general as that of a gnome. The dat. commodi ttæK; (Ges. §154, 3, e) renders the exhortation both friendly and urgent: from regard to yourselves, for your own good, for your own salvation, desist from man, i.e., from your confidence in him, in whose nose (in cujus naso, the singular, as in Job 27:3; whereas the plural is used in Gen 2:7 in the same sense, in nares ejus, “into his nostrils”) is a breath, a breath of life, which God gave to him, and can take back as soon as He will (Job 34:14; Ps 104:29).
Upon the breath, which passes out and in through his nose, his whole earthly existence is suspended; and this, when once lost, is gone for ever (Job 7:7). It is upon this breath, therefore, that all the confidence placed in man must rest-a bad soil and foundation! Under these conditions, and with this liability to perish in a moment, the worth of man as a ground of confidence is really nothing. This thought is expressed here in the form of a question: At (for) what is he estimated, or to be estimated? The passive participle nechshâb combines with the idea of the actual (aestimatus) that of the necessary (aestimandus), and also of the possible or suitable (aestimabilis); and that all the more because the Semitic languages have no special forms for the latter notions. The Beth is Beth pretii, corresponding to the Latin genitive (quanti) or ablative (quanto)-a modification of the Beth instrumenti, the price being regarded as the medium of exchange or purchase: “at what is he estimated,” not with what is he compared, which would be expressed by ‘eth (Isa 53:12; compare meta> , Luke 22:37) or ‘im (Ps 88:5).
The word is hm; , not hm; , because this looser form is only found in cases where a relative clause follows (eo quod, Eccl 3:22), and not bammâh, because this termination with aa is used exclusively where the next word begins with Aleph, or where it is a pausal word (as in 1 Kings 22:21); in every other case we have bammeh. The question introduced with this quanto (quanti), “at what,” cannot be answered by any positive definition of value. The worth of man, regarded in himself, and altogether apart from God, is really nothing. The proclamation of judgment pauses at this porisma, but only for the purpose of gathering fresh strength. The prophet has foretold in four strophes the judgment of God upon every exalted thing in the kosmos that has fallen away from communion with God, just as Amos commences his book with a round of judgments, which are uttered in seven strophes of uniform scope, bursting like seven thunder-claps upon the nations of the existing stage of history. The seventh stroke falls upon Judah, over which the thunderstorm rests after finding such abundant booty. And in the same manner Isaiah, in the instance before us, reduces the universal proclamation of judgment to one more especially affecting Judah and Jerusalem. The current of the address breaks through the bounds of the strophe; and the exhortation in Isa 2:22 not to trust in man, the reason for which is assigned in what precedes, also forms a transition from the universal proclamation of judgment to the more special one in Isa 3:1, where the prophet assigns a fresh ground for the exhortation:- ISAIAH 3:1 “For, behold, the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah supporter and means of support, every support of bread and every support of water.” The divine name given here, “The Lord, Jehovah of hosts,” with which Isaiah everywhere introduces the judicial acts of God (cf., Isa 1:24; 10:16,33; 19:4), is a proof that the proclamation of judgment commences afresh here. Trusting in man was the crying sin, more especially of the times of Uzziah-Jotham. The glory of the kingdom at that time carried the wrath of Jehovah within it. The outbreak of that wrath commenced in the time of Ahaz; and even under Hezekiah it was merely suspended, not changed. Isaiah foretells this outbreak of wrath. He describes how Jehovah will lay the Jewish state in ruins, by taking away the main supports of its existence and growth. “Supporter and means of support” (mash’en and mash’enah) express, first of all, the general idea.
The two nouns, which are only the masculine and feminine forms of one and the same word (compare Mic 2:4; Nah 2:11, and the examples from the Syriac and Arabic in Ewald, §172, c), serve to complete the generalization: fulcra omne genus (props of every kind, omnigena). They are both technical terms, denoting the prop which a person uses to support anything, whilst mish’an signifies that which yields support; so that the three correspond somewhat to the Latin fulcrum, fultura, fulcimen. Of the various means of support, bread and wine are mentioned first, not in a figurative sense, but as the two indispensable conditions and the lowest basis of human life. Life is supported by bread and water: it walks, as it were, upon the crutch of bread, so that “breaking the staff of bread” (Lev 26:26; Ezek 4:16; 5:16; 14:13; Ps 105:16) is equivalent to physical destruction. The destruction of the Jewish state would accordingly be commenced by a removal on the part of Jehovah of all the support afforded by bread and water, i.e., all the stores of both.
And this was literally fulfilled, for both in the Chaldean and Roman times Jerusalem perished in the midst of just such terrible famines as are threatened in the curses in Lev 26, and more especially in Deut 28; and in both cases the inhabitants were reduced to such extremities, that women devoured their own children (Lam 2:20; Josephus, Wars of Jews, vi. 3, 3, 4). It is very unjust, therefore, on the part of modern critics, such as Hitzig, Knobel, and Meier, to pronounce v. 1b a gloss, and, in fact, a false one.
Gesenius and Umbreit retracted this suspicion. The construction of the verse is just the same as that of Isa 25:6; and it is Isaiah’s custom to explain his own figures, as we have already observed when comparing Isa 1:7ff. and 1:23 with what preceded them. “Every support of bread and every support of water” are not to be regarded in this case as an explanation of the general idea introduced before, “supporters and means of support,” but simply as the commencement of the detailed expansion of the idea. For the enumeration of the supports which Jehovah would take away is continued in the next two verses.
“Hero and man of war, judge and prophet, and soothsayer and elder; captains of fifty, and the highly distinguished, and counsellors, and masters in art, and those skilled in muttering.” As the state had grown into a military state under Uzziah-Jotham, the prophet commences in both verses with military officers, viz., the gibbor, i.e., commanders whose bravery had been already tried; the “man of war” (ish milchâmâh), i.e., private soldiers who had been equipped and well trained (see Ezek 39:20); and the “captain of fifty” (sar chamisshim), leaders of the smallest divisions of the army, consisting of only fifty men (pentekontarchos, 2 Kings 1:9, etc.). The prominent members of the state are all mixed up together; “the judge” (shophet), i.e., the officers appointed by the government to administer justice; “the elder” (zâkeen), i.e., the heads of families and the senators appointed by the town corporations; the “counsellor” (yooetz), those nearest to the king; the “highly distinguished” (nesu panim), lit., those whose personal appearance (panim) was accepted, i.e., welcome and regarded with honour (Saad.: wa’gîh, from wa’gh, the face of appearance), that is to say, persons of influence, not only on account of their office, but also on account of wealth, age, goodness, etc.; “masters in art” (chacam charâshim: LXX sofo>v arcite>ktwn ), or, as Jerome has very well rendered it, in artibus mechanicis exercitatus easque callide tractans (persons well versed in mechanical arts, and carrying them out with skill).
In the Chaldean captivities skilled artisans are particularly mentioned as having been carried away (2 Kings 24:14ff.; Jer 24:1; 29:2); so that there can be no doubt whatever that charâshim (from cheresh) is to be understood as signifying mechanical and not magical arts, as Gesenius, Hitzig, and Meier suppose, and therefore that chacam charâshim does not mean “wizards,” as Ewald renders it (charâshim is a different word from chârâshim, fabri, from chârâsh, although in 1 Chron 4:14, cf., Neh 11:35, the word is regularly pointed vr;j; even in this personal sense). Moreover, the rendering “wizards” produces tautology, inasmuch as masters of the black art are cited as nebon lachash, “skilled in muttering.” Lachash is the whispering or muttering of magical formulas; it is related both radically and in meaning to nachash, enchantment (Arabic nachs, misfortune); it is derived from lâchash, sibilare, to hiss (a kindred word to nâchash; hence nâchâsh, a serpent). Beside this, the masters of the black art are also represented as kosem, which, in accordance with the radical idea of making fast, swearing, conjuring, denoted a soothsayer following heathen superstitions, as distinguished from the nabi, of false Jehovah prophet (we find this as early as Deut 18:10,14). f18 These came next to bread and water, and were in a higher grade the props of the state. They are mixed together in this manner without regular order, because the powerful and splendid state was really a quodlibet of things Jewish and heathen; and when the wrath of Jehovah broke out, the godless glory would soon become a mass of confusion.
Thus robbed of its support, and torn out of its proper groove, the kingdom of Judah would fall a prey to the most shameless despotism: “And I give them boys for princes, and caprices shall rule over them.” The revived “Solomonian” glory is followed, as before, by the times of Rehoboam. The king is not expressly named. This was intentional. He had sunk into the mere shadow of a king: it was not he who ruled, but the aristocratic party that surrounded him, who led him about in leading strings as unum inter pares. Now, if it is a misfortune in most cases for a king to be a child (na’ar, Eccl 10:16), the misfortune is twice as great when the princes or magnates who surround and advise him are youngsters (ne’ârim, i.e., young lords) in a bad sense. It produces a government of taalulim. None of the nouns in this form have a personal signification. According to the primary meaning of the verbal stem, the word might signify childishnesses, equivalent to little children (the abstract for the concrete, like ta> paidika> , amasius), as Ewald supposes; or puppets, fantocci, poltroons, or men without heart or brain, as Luzzatto maintains.
But the latter has no support in the general usage of the language, and the verb yimshelu (shall rule) does not necessarily require a personal subject (cf., Ps 19:14; 103:19). The word taalulim is formed from the reflective verb hithallel, which means to meddle, to gratify one’s self, to indulge one’s caprice. Accordingly taalulim itself might be rendered vexationes (Isa 66:4). Jerome, who translates the word effeminati, appears to have thought of `llæ[; in an erotic sense. The Sept. rendering, empai>ktai , is better, though empai>gmata would be more exact. When used, as the word is here, along with ne’arim, it signifies outbursts of youthful caprice, which do injury to others, whether in joke or earnest. Neither law nor justice would rule, but the very opposite of justice: a course of conduct which would make subjects, like slaves, the helpless victims at one time of their lust (Judg 19:25), and at another of their cruelty. They would be governed by lawless and bloodstained caprice, of the most despotic character and varied forms. And the people would resemble their rulers: their passions would be let loose, and all restraints of modesty and decorum be snapt asunder.
“And the people oppress one another, one this and another that; the boy breaks out violently upon the old man, and the despised upon the honoured.” Niggas is the reciprocal niphal, as the clause depicting the reciprocity clearly shows (cf., nilcham, Isa 19:2); nagas followed by Beth means to treat as a tyrant or taskmaster (Isa 9:3). The commonest selfishness would then stifle every nobler motive; one would become the tyrant of another, and ill-mannered insolence would take the place of that reverence, which is due to the old and esteemed from boys and those who are below them in position, whether we regard the law of nature, the Mosaic law (Lev 19:32), or the common custom of society. Nikleh (from kâlâh, the synonym of llæq; , Isa 8:23; 23:9; cf., ch. 16:14, kal, to be light or insignificant) was a term used to denote whoever belonged to the lowest stratum of society (1 Sam 18:23). It was the opposite of nicbâd (from cabed, to be heavy or of great importance). The Septuagint rendering, oJ a>timov pro>v to>n e>ntimon is a very good one (as the Semitic languages have no such antithetical formations with aa stereetiko’n). With such contempt of the distinctions arising from age and position, the state would very soon become a scene of the wildest confusion.
The prophet then proceeds, in vv. 8-12, to describe this deep, tragical misery as a just retribution. V. 8. “For Jerusalem is ruined and Judah fallen; because their tongue and their doings (are) against Jehovah, to defy the eyes of His glory.” Jerusalem as a city is feminine, according to the usual personification; Judah as a people is regarded as masculine. f19 The two preterites câsh’lâh and nâphal express the general fact, which occasioned such scenes of misery as the one just described. The second clause, beginning with “because” (chi), is a substantive clause, and attributes the coming judgment not to future sin, but to sin already existing. “Again Jehovah:” lae is used to denote a hostile attitude, as in Isa 2:4; Gen 4:8; Num 32:14; Josh 10:6. The capital and the land are against Jehovah both in word and deed, “to defy the eyes of His glory” (lamroth ‘eenee chebodo). `ˆyi[æ is equivalent to `ˆyi[æ ; and lamroth is a syncopated hiphil, as in Isa 23:11, and like the niphal in ch. 1:12: we find the same form of the same word in Ps 78:17. The kal mârâh, which is also frequently construed with the accusative, signifies to thrust away in a refractory manner; the hiphil himrâh, to treat refractorily, literally to set one’s self rigidly in opposition, obniti; mar, stringere, to draw tightly, with which unquestionably the meaning bitter as an astringent is connected, though it does not follow that mârâh, himrâh, and hemar (Ex 23:21) can be rendered parapikrai>nein , as they have been in the Septuagint, since the idea of opposing, resisting, fighting in opposition, is implied in all these roots, with distinct reference to the primary meaning. The Lamed is a shorter expression instead of ˆ[æmæ , which is the term generally employed in such circumstances (Amos 2:7; Jer 7:18; 32:29). But what does the prophet mean by “the eyes of His glory?” Knobel’s assertion, that châbod is used here for the religious glory, i.e., the holiness of God, is a very strange one, since the châbod of God is invariably the fiery, bright doxa which reveals Him as the Holy One. but his remark does not meet the question, inasmuch as it does not settle the point in dispute, whether the expression “the eyes of His glory” implies that the glory itself has eyes, or the glory is a quality of the eyes. The construction is certainly not a different one from “the arm of His glory” in Isa 52:10, so that it is to be taken as an attribute. But this suggests the further question, what does the prophet mean by the glory-eyes or glorious eyes of Jehovah? If we were to say the eyes of Jehovah are His knowledge of the world, it would be impossible to understand how they could be called holy, still less how they could be called glorious. This abstract explanation of the anthropomorphisms cannot be sustained. The state of the case is rather the following. The glory (chabod) of God is that eternal and glorious morphe which His holy nature assumes, and which men must picture to themselves anthropomorphically, because they cannot imagine anything superior to the human form. In this glorious form Jehovah looks upon His people with eyes of glory. His pure but yet jealous love, His holy love which breaks out in wrath against all who meet it with hatred instead of with love, is reflected therein.
The prophet’s meaning is evident enough. But inasmuch as it is the curse of sin to distort the knowledge of what is most obvious and self-evident, and even to take it entirely away, the prophet dwells still longer upon the fact that all sinning is self-destruction and self-murder, placing this general truth against its opposite in a palillogical Johannic way, and calling out to his contemporaries in vv. 10, 11: “Say of the righteous, that it is well with him; for they will enjoy the fruit of their doings. Woe to the wicked! it is ill; for what his hands have wrought will be done to him.” We cannot adopt the rendering “Praise the righteous,” proposed by Vitringa and other modern commentators; for although âmar is sometimes construed with the accusative of the object (Ps 40:11; 145:6,11), it never means to praise, but to declare (even in Ps 40:11). We have here what was noticed from Gen 1:4 onwards-namely, the obvious antiptôsis or antiphonêsis in the verbs ha;r; (cf., Isa 22:9; Ex 2:2), [dæy; (1 Kings 5:17), and rmæa; (like le>gein , John 9:9): dicite justum quod bonus = dicite justum esse bonum (Ewald, §336, b).
The object of sight, knowledge, or speech, is first of all mentioned in the most general manner; then follows the qualification, or more precise definition. bwOf , and in v. 11 [ræ [ræ without the pause), might both of them be the third pers. pret. of the verbs, employed in a neuter sense: the former signifying, it is well, viz., with him (as in Deut 5:30; Jer 22:15-16); the latter, it is bad (as in Ps 106:32). But it is evident from Jer 44:17 that aWh bwOf and aWh [ræ may be used in the sense of kalw>v ( kakw>v ) e>cei , and that the two expressions are here thought of in this way, so that there is no ttæK; to be supplied in either case. The form of the first favours this; and in the second the accentuation fluctuates between ywa tiphchah [vrl munach, and the former with merka, the latter tiphchah. At the same time, the latter mode of accentuation, which is favourable to the personal rendering of [ræ , is supported by editions of some worth, such as Brescia 1494, Pesaro 1516, Venice 1515, 1521, and is justly preferred by Luzzatto and Bär. The summary assertions, The righteous is well, the wicked ill, are both sustained by their eventual fate, in the light of which the previous misfortune of the righteous appears as good fortune, and the previous good fortune of the wicked as misfortune. With an allusion to this great difference in their eventual fate, the word “say,” which belongs to both clauses, summons to an acknowledgment of the good fortune of the one and the misfortune of the other. O that Judah and Jerusalem would acknowledge their to their own salvation before it was too late! For the state of the poor nation was already miserable enough, and very near to destruction.
“My people, its oppressors are boys, and women rule over it; my people, thy leaders are misleaders, who swallow up the way of thy paths.” It is not probable that me’olel signifies maltreaters or triflers, by the side of the parallel nâshim; moreover, the idea of despotic treatment is already contained in nogesaiv. We expect to find children where there are women.
And this is one meaning of me’olel. It does not mean a suckling, however, as Ewald supposes (§160, a), more especially as it occurs in connection with yonek (Jer 44:7; Lam 2:11), and therefore cannot have precisely the same meaning; but, like `llewO[ and `llewO[ (the former of which may be contracted from meoleel), it refers to the boy as playful and wanton (Lascivum, protervum). Böttcher renders it correctly, pueri, lusores, though meoleel is not in itself a collective form, as he supposes; but the singular is used collectively, or perhaps better still, the predicate is intended to apply to every individual included in the plural notion of the subject (compare Isa 16:8; 20:4, and Ges. §146, 4): the oppressors of the people, every one without exception, were (even though advance din years) mere boys or youths in their mode of thinking and acting, and made all subject to them the football of their capricious humour.
Here again the person of the king is allowed to fall into the background. but the female rule, referred to afterwards, points us to the court. And this must really have been the case when Ahaz, a young rake, came to the throne at the age of twenty (according to the LXX twenty-five), possibly towards the close of the reign of Jotham. With the deepest anguish the prophet repeats the expression “my people,” as he passes in his address to his people from the rulers to the preachers: for the meassherim or leaders are prophets (Mic 3:5); but what prophets! Instead of leading the people in a straight path, they lead them astray (Isa 9:15, cf., 2 Kings 21:9). This they did, as we may gather from the history of this crowd of prophets, either by acting in subservience to the ungodly interests of the court with dynastic or demagogical servility, or by flattering the worst desires of the people. Thus the way of the path of the people, i.e., the highway or road by whose ramifying paths the people were to reach the appointed goal, had been swallowed up by them, i.e., taken away from the sight and feet of the people, so that they could not find it and walk therein (cf., Isa 25:7-8, where the verb is used in another connection).
What is swallowed up is invisible, has disappeared, without a grace being left behind. The same idea is applied in Job 39:27 to a galloping horse, which is said to swallow the road, inasmuch as it leaves piece after piece behind it in its rapid course. It is stated here with regard to the prophets, that they swallow up the road appointed by Jehovah, as the one in which His people were to walk, just as a criminal swallows a piece of paper which bears witness against him, and so hides it in his own stomach. Thus the way of salvation pointed out by the law was no longer to be either heard of or seen. The prophets, who ought to have preached it, said mum, mum, and kept it swallowed. It had completely perished, as it were, in the erroneous preaching of the false prophets. ISAIAH 3:13 This was how it stood. There was but little to be expected from the exhortations of the prophet; so that he had to come back again and again to the proclamation of judgment. The judgment of the world comes again before his mind.-V. 13. “Jehovah has appeared to plead, and stands up to judge the nations.” When Jehovah, weary with His long-suffering, rises up from His heavenly throne, this is described as “standing up” (kum, Isa 2:19,21; 33:10); and when He assumes the judgment-seat in the sight of all the world, this is called “sitting down” (yashab, Ps. 9:5, Joel 4:12); when, having come down from heaven (Mic 1:2ff.), He comes forward as accuser, this is called “standing” (nizzab or amad, Ps 82:1: amad is coming forward and standing, as the opposite of sitting; nizzab, standing, with the subordinate idea of being firm, resolute, ready). This pleading (ribh, Jer 25:31) is also judging (din), because His accusation, which is incontrovertible, contains the sentence in itself; and His sentence, which executes itself irresistibly, is of itself the infliction of punishment. Thus does he stand in the midst of the nations at once accuser, judge, and executioner (Ps 7:8). But among the nations it is more especially against Israel that He contends; and in Israel it is more especially against the leaders of the poor misguided and neglected people that He sets Himself.
“Jehovah will proceed to judgment with the elders of His people, and its princes. And ye, ye have eaten up the vineyard; prey of the suffering is in your houses. What mean ye that ye crush my people, and grind the face of the suffering? Thus saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts.” The words of God Himself commence with “and ye” (v’attem). The sentence to which this (et vos = at vos) is the antithesis is wanting, just as in Ps 2:6, where the words of God commence with “and I” (va’ani, et ego = ast ego). the tacit clause may easily be supplied, viz., I have set you over my vineyard, but he have consumed the vineyard. The only question is, whether the sentence is to be regarded as suppressed by Jehovah Himself, or by the prophet. Most certainly by Jehovah Himself. The majesty with which He appeared before the rulers of His people as, even without words, a practical and undeniable proof that their majesty was only a shadow of His, and their office His trust. But their office consisted in the fact that Jehovah had committed His people to their care. The vineyard of Jehovah was His people-a self-evident figure, which the prophet dresses up in the form of a parable in ch. 5.
Jehovah had appointed them as gardeners and keepers of this vineyard, but they themselves have become the very beasts that they ought to have warded off. r[æB; is applied to the beasts which completely devour the blades of a corn-field or the grapes of a vineyard (Ex 22:4). This change was perfectly obvious. The possessions stolen from their unhappy countrymen, which were still in their houses, were the tangible proof of their plundering of the vineyard. “The suffering:” ‘ani (depressus, the crushed) is introduced as explanatory of haccerem, the prey, because depression and misery were the ordinary fate of the congregation which God called His vineyard.
It was ecclesia pressa, but woe to the oppressors! In the question “what mean ye?” (mallâcem) the madness and wickedness of their deeds are implied. hm; and ttæK; are fused into one word here, as if it were a prefix (as in Ex 4:2; Ezek 8:6; Mal 1:13; vid., Ges. §20, 2). The keri helps to make it clear by resolving the chethibh. The word mallâcem ought, strictly speaking, to be followed by chi: “What is there to you that ye crush my people?” as in Isa 22:1,16; but the words rush forwards (as in Jonah 1:6), because they are an explosion of wrath. For this reason the expressions relating to the behaviour of the rulers are the strongest that can possibly be employed. ak;D; (crush) is also to be met with in Prov 22:22; but “grind the face” (tâchan p’ne) is a strong metaphor without a parallel. The former signifies “to pound,” the latter “to grind,” as the millstone grinds the corn.
They grind the faces of those who are already bowed down, thrusting them back with such unmerciful severity, that they stand as it were annihilated, and their faces become as white as flour, or as the Germans would say, cheese-white, chalk-white, as pale as death, from oppression and despair.
Thus the language supplied to a certain extent appropriate figures, with which to describe the conduct of the rulers of Israel; but it contained no words that could exhaust the immeasurable wickedness of their conduct: hence the magnitude of their sin is set before them in the form of a question, “What is to you?” i.e., What indescribable wickedness is this which you are committing? The prophet hears this said by Jehovah, the majestic Judge, whom he here describes as Adonai Elohim Zebaoth (according to the Masoretic pointing). This triplex name of God, which we find in the prophetic books, viz., frequently in Amos and also in Jer 2:19, occurs for the first time in the Elohistic Psalm, Ps 69:7. This scene of judgment is indeed depicted throughout in the colours of the Psalms, and more especially recals the (Elohistic) Psalm of Asaph (Ps 82).
But notwithstanding the dramatic vividness with which the prophet pictures to himself this scene of judgment, he is obliged to break off at the very beginning of his description, because another word of Jehovah comes upon him. This applies to the women of Jerusalem, whose authority, at the time when Isaiah prophesied, was no less influential than that of their husbands who had forgotten their calling.-V. 16, 17. “Jehovah hath spoken: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk about with extended throat, and blinking with the eyes, walk about with tripping gait, and tinkle with their foot-ornaments: the Lord of all makes the crown of the daughters of Zion scabbed, and Jehovah will uncover their shame.”
Their inward pride (gâbah, as in Ezek 16:50; cf., Zeph 3:11) shows itself outwardly. They walk with extended throat, i.e., bending the neck back, trying to make themselves taller than they are, because they think themselves so great.
The keri substitutes the more usual form, hf;n; ; but Isaiah in all probability intentionally made use of the rarer and ruder form netuvoth, since such a form really existed (1 Sam 25:18), as well as the singular nâtu for nâtui (Job 15:22; 41:25: Ges. §75, Anm. 5). They also went winking the eyes (mesakkeroth, for which we frequently find the erratum meshakkeroth), i.e., casting voluptuous and amatory glances with affected innocence ( neu>mata ofqalmw>n , LXX). “Winking:” sâkar is not used in the sense of fucare (Targ. b. Sabbath 62b, Jome 9b, Luther)-which is all the more inappropriate, because blackening the eyelids with powder of antimony was regarded in the East of the Old Testament as indispensable to female beauty-but in the sense of nictare (LXX, Vulg., Syr., syn. remaz, cf., sekar, Syr. to squint; Targ. = shâzaph, Job 20:9). Compare also the talmudic saying: God did not create woman out of Adam’s ear, that she might be no eavesdropper (tsaithânith), nor out of Adam’s eyes, that she might be no winker (sakrânith). f20 The third was, that they walked incedendo et trepidando. The second inf. abs. is in this case, as in most others, the one which gives the distinct tone, whilst the other serves to keep before the eye the occurrence indicated in its finite verb (Ges. §131, 3). They walk about tripping (tâphoph, a widespread onomato-poetic word), i.e., taking short steps, just putting the heel of one foot against the toe of the other (as the Talmud explains it). Luther renders it, “they walk along and waggle” (schwânzen, i.e., clunibus agitatis). The rendering is suitable, but incorrect. They could only take short steps, because of the chains by which the costly foot-rings (achâsim) worn above their ankles were connected together. These chains, which were probably ornamented with bells, as is sometimes the case now in the East, they used to tinkle as they walked: they made an ankle-tinkling with their feet, setting their feet down in such a manner that these ankle-rings knocked against each other.
The writing beragleehem (masc.) for beragleehen (fem.) is probably not an unintentional synallage gen.: they were not modest virgines, but cold, masculine viragines, so that they themselves were a synallage generis.
Nevertheless they tripped along. Tripping is a child’s step. Nevertheless they tripped along. Tripping is a child’s step. Although well versed in sin and old in years, the women of Jerusalem tried to maintain a youthful, childlike appearance. They therefore tripped along with short, childish steps. The women of the Mohammedan East still take pleasure in such coquettish tinklings, although they are forbidden by the Koran, just as the women of Jerusalem did in the days of Isaiah. The attractive influence of natural charms, especially when heightened by luxurious art, is very great; but the prophet is blind to all this splendour, and seeing nothing but the corruption within, foretells to these rich and distinguished women a foul and by no means aesthetic fate. The Sovereign Ruler of all would smite the crown of their head, from which long hair was now flowing, with scab (v’sippach, a progressive preterite with Vav apodosis, a denom. verb from sappachath, the scurf which adheres to the skin: see at Hab 2:15); and Jehovah would uncover their nakedness, by giving them up to violation and abuse at the hands of coarse and barbarous foes-the greatest possible disgrace in the eyes of a woman, who covers herself as carefully as she can in the presence of any stranger (Isa 47:3; Nah 3:5; Jer 13:22; Ezek 16:37).
The prophet then proceeds to describe still further how the Lord would take away the whole of their toilet as plunder. Vv. 18-23. “On that day the Lord will put away the show of the ankle-clasps, and of the head-bands, and of the crescents; the ear-rings, and the arm-chains, and the light veils; the diadems, and the stepping-chains, and the girdles, and the smellingbottles, and the amulets; the finger-rings, and the nose-rings; the galadresses, and the sleeve-frocks, and the wrappers, and the pockets; the hand-mirrors, and the Sindu-cloths, and the turbans, and the gauze mantles.” The fullest explanation of all these articles of female attire is to be found in N. W. Schröder’s work, entitled Commentarius de vestitu mulierum Hebraearum ad Jes. Isa 3:16-24, Ludg. Batav. 1745 (a quarto volume), and in that of Ant. Theod. Hartmann, consisting of three octavo volumes, and entitled Die Hebräerin am Putztische und als Braut (The Jewess at the Toilet-table, and as Bride, 1809-10); to which we may also add, Saalschütz, Archaeologie, ch. iii., where he treats of the dresses of men and women.
It was not usually Isaiah’s custom to enter into such minute particulars. Of all the prophets, Ezekiel was the one most addicted to this, as we may see, for example, from Ezek 16. And even in other prophecies against the women we find nothing of the kind again (Isa 32:9ff.; Amos 4:1ff.). But in this instance, the enumeration of the female ornaments is connected with that of the state props in Isa 3:1-3, and that of the lofty and exalted in Isa 2:13-16, so as to form a trilogy, and has its own special explanation in that boundless love of ornament which had become prevalent in the time of Uzziah-Jotham. It was the prophet’s intention to produce a ludicrous, but yet serious impression, as to the immeasurable luxury which really existed; and in the prophetic address, his design throughout is to bring out the glaring contrast between the titanic, massive, worldly glory, in all its varied forms, and that true, spiritual, and majestically simple glory, whose reality is manifested from within outwards.
In fact, the theme of the whole address is the way of universal judgment leading on from the false glory to the true. The general idea of tiphereth (show: rendered “bravery” in Eng. ver.) which stands at the head and includes the whole, points to the contrast presented by a totally different tiphereth which follows in Isa 4:2. In explaining each particular word, we must be content with what is most necessary, and comparatively the most certain. “Ankle-clasps” (acâsim): these were rings of gold, silver, or ivory, worn round the ankles; hence the denom. verb (icces) in v. 16, to make a tinkling sound with these rings. “Head-bands,” or “frontlets” (shebisim, from shâbas = shâbatz: plectere), were plaited bands of gold or silver thread worn below the hair-net, and reaching from one ear to the other. There is some force, however, in the explanation which has been very commonly adopted since the time of Schröder, namely, that they were sunlike balls (= shemisim), which were worn as ornaments round the neck, from the Arabic ‘sumeisa (‘subeisa), a little sun.
The “crescents” (saharonim) were little pendants of this kind, fastened round the neck and hanging down upon the breast (in Judg 8:21 we meet with them as ornaments hung round the camels’ necks). Such ornaments are still worn by Arabian girls, who generally have several different kinds of them; the hilâl, or new moon, being a symbol of increasing good fortune, and as such the most approved charm against the evil eye. “Ear-rings” (netiphoth, ear-drops): we meet with these in Judg 8:26, as an ornament worn by Midianitish kings. Hence the Arabic munattafe, a woman adorned with ear-rings. “Arm-chains:” sheroth, from shâra, to twist. According to the Targum, these were chains worn upon the arm, or spangles upon the wrist, answering to the spangles upon the ankles. “Fluttering veils” (re’âloth, from râ’al, to hang loose): these were more expensive than the ordinary veils worn by girls, which were called tza’iph. “Diadems” (pe’erim) are only mentioned in other parts of the Scriptures as being worn by men (e.g., by priests, bride-grooms, or persons of high rank). “Stepping-chains:” tze’âdoth, from tze’âdah, a step; hence the chain worn to shorten and give elegance to the step. “Girdles:” kisshurim, from kâshar (cingere), dress girdles, such as were worn by brides upon their wedding-day (compare Jer 2:32 with Isa 49:18); the word is erroneously rendered hair-pins (kalmasmezayyah) in the Targum. “Smelling-bottles:” botte hannephesh, holders of scent (nephesh, the breath of an aroma). “Amulets:” lechashim (from lâchash, to work by incantations), gems or metal plates with an inscription upon them, which were worn as a protection as well as an ornament. “Finger-rings:” tabbâ’oth, from tâba, to impress or seal, signet-rings worn upon the finger, corresponding to the chothâm worn by men upon the breast suspended by a cord. “Nose-rings” (nizmee hâaph) were fastened in the central division of the nose, and hung down over the mouth: they have been ornaments in common use in the East from the time of the patriarchs (Gen 24:22) down to the present day. “Gala-dresses” (machalâtsoth) are dresses not usually worn, but taken off when at home. “Sleeve-frocks” (ma’atâphâh): the second tunic, worn above the ordinary one, the Roman stola. “Wrappers” (mitpâchoth, from tâphach, expandere), broad cloths wrapped round the body, such as Ruth wore when she crept in to Boaz in her best attire (Rut. Ruth 3:15). “Pockets” (charitim) were for holding money (2 Kings 5:23), which was generally carried by men in the girdle, or in a purse (cis). “Hand-mirrors” (gilyonim): the Septuagint renders this diafanee’ lakoonika’, sc. iJma>tia , Lacedaemonian gauze or transparent dresses, which showed the nakedness rather than concealed it (from gâlâh, retegere); but the better rendering is mirrors with handles, polished metal plates (from gâlâh, polire), as gillâyon is used elsewhere to signify a smooth table. “Sindu-cloths” (sedinim), veils or coverings of the finest linen, viz., of Sindu or Hindu cloth ( sindo>nev )- Sindu, the land of Indus, being the earlier name of India. f21 “Turbans” (tseniphoth, from tsânaph, convolvere), the head-dress composed of twisted cloths of different colours. “Gauze mantles” (redidim, from râdad, extendere, tenuem facere), delicate veil-like mantles thrown over the rest of the clothes. Stockings and handkerchiefs are not mentioned: the former were first introduced into Hither Asia from Media long after Isaiah’s time, and a Jerusalem lady no more thought of suing the latter than a Grecian or Roman lady did. Even the veil (burko) now commonly worn, which conceals the whole of the face with the exception of the eyes, did not form part of the attire of an Israelitish woman in the olden time. f22 The prophet enumerates twenty-one different ornaments: three sevens of a very bad kind, especially for the husbands of these state-dolls. There is no particular order observed in the enumeration, either from head to foot, or from the inner to the outer clothing; but they are arranged as much ad libitum as the dress itself.
When Jehovah took away all this glory, with which the women of Jerusalem were adorned, they would be turned into wretched-looking prisoners, disfigured by ill-treatment and dirt.-V. 24. “And instead of balmy scent there will be mouldiness, and instead of the sash a rope, and instead of artistic ringlets a baldness, and instead of the dress-cloak a frock of sackcloth, branding instead of beauty.” Mouldiness, or mother (mak, as in Isa 5:24, the dust of things that have moulded away), with which they would be covered, and which they would be obliged to breathe, would take the place of the bosem, i.e., the scent of the balsam shrub (bâsâm), and of sweet-scented pomade in general; and nipâh that of the beautifully embroidered girdle (Prov 31:24). The meaning of this word is neither “a wound,” as the Targums and Talmud render it, nor “rags,” as given by Knobel, ed. 1 (from nâkaph, percutere, perforare), but the rope thrown over them as prisoners (from kâphâh = kâvâh, contorquere: LXX, Vulg., Syr.). f23 Baldness takes the place of artistic ringlets hv,q]mi hc,[mæ , not hc,[mæ , so that it is in apposition: cf., Isa 30:20; Ges. §113; Ewald, §287, b). The reference is not to golden ornaments for the head, as the Sept. rendering gives it, although miksheh is used elsewhere to signify embossed or carved work in metal or wood; but here we are evidently to understand by the “artificial twists” either curls made with the curling-tongs, or the hair plaited and twisted up in knots, which they would be obliged to cut off in accordance with the mourning customs (Isa 15:2; 22:12), or which would fall off in consequence of grief. A frock of sackcloth (machagoreth sak), i.e., a smock of coarse haircloth worn next to the skin, such as Layard found depicted upon a bas-relief at Kouyunjik, would take the place of the pethigil, i.e., the dress-cloak (either from pâthag, to be wide or full, with the substantive termination îl, or else composed of pethi, breadth, and gil, festive rejoicing); and branding the place of beauty. Branding (ci = cevi, from câvâh, kai>ein ), the mark burnt upon the forehead by their conquerors: ci is a substantive, not a particle, as the Targum and others render it, and as the makkeph might make it appear. There is something very effective in the inverted order of the words in the last clause of the five. In this five-fold reverse would shame and mourning take the place of proud, voluptuous rejoicing.
The prophet now passes over to a direct address to Jerusalem itself, since the “daughters of Zion” and the daughter of Zion in her present degenerate condition. The daughter of Zion loses her sons, and consequently the daughters of Zion their husbands.-V. 25. “Thy men will fall by the sword, and thy might in war.” The plural methim (the singular of which only occurs in the form methu, with the connecting vowel û as a component part of the proper names) is used as a prose word in the Pentateuch; but in the later literature it is a poetic archaism. “Thy might” is used interchangeably with “thy men,” the possessors of the might being really intended, like robur and robora in Latin (compare Jer 49:35). ISAIAH 3:26 What the prophet here foretells to the daughter of Zion he sees in v. fulfilled upon her: “Then will her gates lament and mourn, and desolate is she, sits down upon the ground.” The gates, where the husbands of the daughters of Zion, who have now fallen in war, sued at one time to gather together in such numbers, are turned into a state of desolation, in which they may, as it were, be heard complaining, and seen to mourn (Isa 14:31; Jer 14:2; Lam 1:4); and the daughter of Zion herself is utterly vacated, thoroughly emptied, completely deprived of all her former population; and in this state of the most mournful widowhood or orphanage, brought down from her lofty seat (Isa 47:1) and princely glory (Jer 13:18), she sits down upon the ground, just as Judaea is represented as doing upon Roman medals that were struck after the destruction of Jerusalem, where she is introduced as a woman thoroughly broken down, and sitting under a palmtree in an attitude of despair, with a warrior standing in front of her, the inscription upon the medal being Judaea capta, or devicta. The Septuagint rendering is quite in accordance with the sense, viz., kai> kataleifqh>sh mo>nh kai> eiv th>n gh>n edafisqh>sh (cf., Luke 19:44), except that bvæy; is not the second person, but the third, and hq;n; the third pers. pret. niph. for ht;Q]ni -a pausal form which is frequently met with in connection with the smaller distinctive accents, such as silluk and athnach (here it occurs with tiphchah, as, for example, in Amos 3:8). The clause “sits down upon the ground” is appended asunde>twv ;-a frequent construction in cases where one of two verbs defines the other in a manner which is generally expressed adverbially (vid., 1 Chron 13:2, and the inverted order of the words in Jer 4:5; cf., Isa 12:6): Zion sits upon the earth in a state of utter depopulation.
When war shall thus unsparingly have swept away the men of Zion, a most unnatural effect will ensue, namely, that women will go in search of husbands, and not men in search of wives.-Ch. Isa 4:1. “And seven women lay hold of one man in that day, saying, We will eat our won bread, and wear our own clothes; only let thy name be named upon us, take away our reproach.” The division of the chapters is a wrong one here, as this verse is the closing verse of the prophecy against the women, and the closing portion of the whole address does not begin till Isa 4:2. The present pride of the daughters of Zion, every one of whom now thought herself the greatest as the wife of such and such a man, and for whom many men were now the suitors, would end in this unnatural self-humiliation, that seven of them would offer themselves to the same man, the first man who presented himself, and even renounce the ordinary legal claim upon their husband for clothing and food (Ex 21:10). It would be quite sufficient for them to be allowed to bear his name (“let thy name be named upon us:” the name is put upon the thing named, as giving it its distinctness and character), if he would only take away their reproach (namely, the reproach of being unmarried, Isa 54:4, as in Gen 30:23, of being childless) by letting them be called his wives. The number seven (seven women to one man) may be explained on the ground that there is a bad seven as well as a holy one (e.g., Matt 12:45).
In Isa 4:1 the threat denounced against the women of Jerusalem is brought to a close. It is the side-piece to the threat denounced against the national rulers. And these two scenes of judgment were only parts of the general judgment about to fall upon Jerusalem and Judah, as a state or national community. And this again was merely a portion, viz., the central group of the picture of a far more comprehensive judgment, which was about to fall upon everything lofty and exalted on the earth. Jerusalem, therefore, stands here as the centre and focus of the great judgment-day. It was in Jerusalem that the ungodly glory which was ripe for judgment was concentrated; and it was in Jerusalem also that the light of the true and final glory would concentrate itself. To this promise, with which the address returns to its starting-point, the prophet now passes on without any further introduction.
In fact it needed no introduction, for the judgment in itself was the medium of salvation. When Jerusalem was judged, it would be sifted; and by being sifted, it would be rescued, pardoned, glorified. The prophet proceeds in this sense to speak of what would happen in that day, and describes the one great day of God at the end of time (not a day of four-and-twenty hours any more than the seven days of creation were), according to its general character, as opening with judgment, but issuing in salvation.
“In that day will the sprout of Jehovah become an ornament and glory, and the fruit of the land pride and splendour for the redeemed of Israel.” The four epithets of glory, which are here grouped in pairs, strengthen our expectation, that now that the mass of Israel has been swept away, together with the objects of its worthless pride, we shall find a description of what will become an object of well-grounded pride to the “escaped of Israel,” i.e., to the remnant that has survived the judgment, and been saved from destruction. But with this interpretation of the promise it is impossible that it can be the church of the future itself, which is here called the “sprout of Jehovah” and “fruit of the land,” as Luzzatto and Malbim suppose; and equally impossible, with such an antithesis between what is promised and what is abolished, that the “sprout of Jehovah” and “fruit of the earth” should signify the harvest blessings bestowed by Jehovah, or the rich produce of the land.
For although the expression zemach Jehovah (sprout of Jehovah) may unquestionably be used to signify this, as in Gen 2:9 and Ps 104:14 (cf., Isa 61:11), and fruitfulness of the land is a standing accompaniment of the eschatological promises (e.g., Isa 30:23ff., compare the conclusion of Joel and Amos), and it was also foretold that the fruitful fields of Israel would become a glory in the sight of the nations (Ezek 34:29; Mal 3:12; cf., Joel 2:17); yet this earthly material good, of which, moreover, there was no lack in the time of Uzziah and Jotham, was altogether unsuitable to set forth such a contrast as would surpass and outshine the worldly glory existing before. But even granting what Hofmann adduces in support of this view-namely, that the natural God-given blessings of the field do form a fitting antithesis to the studied works of art of which men had hitherto been proud-there is still truth in the remark of Rosenmüller, that “the magnificence of the whole passage is at variance with such an interpretation.”
Only compare Isa 28:5, where Jehovah Himself is described in the same manner, as the glory and ornament of the remnant of Israel. But if the “sprout of Jehovah” is neither the redeemed remnant itself, nor the fruit of the field, it must be the name of the Messiah. And it is in this sense that it has been understood by the Targum, and by such modern commentators as Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, Steudel, Umbreit, Caspari, Drechsler, and others. The great King of the future is called zemach, anatolh> in the sense of Heb 7:14, viz., as a shoot springing out of the human, Davidic, earthly soil-a shoot which Jehovah had planted in the earth, and would cause to break through and spring forth as the pride of His congregation, which was waiting for this heavenly child. It is He again who is designated in the parallel clause as the “fruit of the land” (or lit., fruit of the earth), as being the fruit which the land of Israel, and consequently the earth itself, would produce, just as in Ezek 17:5 Zedekiah is called a “seed of the earth.” The reasons already adduced to show that “the sprout of Jehovah” cannot refer to the blessings of the field, apply with equal force to “the fruit of the earth.” This also relates to the Messiah Himself, regarded as the fruit in which all the growth and bloom of this earthly history would eventually reach its promised and divinely appointed conclusion. The use of this double epithet to denote “the coming One” can only be accounted for, without anticipating the New Testament standpoint, from the desire to depict His double-sided origin. He would come, on the one hand, from Jehovah; but, on the other hand, from the earth, inasmuch as He would spring from Israel. We have here the passage, on the basis of which zemach (the sprout of “Branch”) was adopted by Jeremiah (Jer 23:5 and 33:15) and Zechariah (Zech 3:8; 6:12) as a proper name for the Messiah, and upon which Matthew, by combining this proper name zemach (sprout) with nezer (Isa 11:1, cf., 53:2), rests his affirmation, that according to the Old Testament prophecies the future Messiah was to be called a Nazarene. It is undoubtedly strange that this epithet should be introduced so entirely without preparation even by Isaiah, who coined it first. In fact, the whole passage relating to the Messiah stands quite alone in this cycle of prophecies in ch. 1-6. But the book of Isaiah is a complete and connected work. What the prophet indicates merely in outline here, he carries out more fully in the cycle of prophecies which follows in ch. 7-12; and there the enigma, which he leaves as an enigma in the passage before us, receives the fullest solution. Without dwelling any further upon the man of the future, described in this enigmatically symbolical way, the prophet hurries on to a more precise description of the church of the future.
“And it will come to pass, whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem, holy will he be called, all who are written down for life in Jerusalem.” The leading emphasis of the whole verse rests upon kadosh (holy). Whereas formerly in Jerusalem persons had been distinguished according to their rank and condition, without any regard to their moral worth (Isa 3:1-3,10- 11; cf., Isa 32:5); so the name kadosh (holy) would now be the one chief name of honour, and would be given to every individual, inasmuch as the national calling of Israel would now be realized in the persons of all (Ex 19:6, etc.). Consequently the expression “he shall be called” is not exactly equivalent to “he shall be,” but rather presupposes the latter, as in Isa 1:26; 61:6; 62:4. The term kadosh denotes that which is withdrawn from the world, or separated from it. The church of the saints or holy ones, which now inhabits Jerusalem, is what has been left from the smelting; and their holiness is the result of washing. rtæy; is interchanged with raæv; .
The latter, as Papenheim has shown in his Hebrew synonyms, involves the idea of intention, viz., “that which has been left behind;” the former merely expresses the fact, viz., that which remains. The character of this “remnant of grace,” and the number of members of which it would consist, are shown in the apposition contained in v. 3b. This apposition means something more than those who are entered as living in Jerusalem, i.e., the population of Jerusalem as entered in the city register (Hofmann); for the verb with Lamed does not mean merely to enter as a certain thing, but (like the same verb with the accusative in Jer 22:30) to enter as intended for a certain purpose. The expression yjæ may either be taken as a noun, viz., “to life” (Dan 12:2), or as an adjective, “to the living” (a meaning which is quite as tenable; cf., Ps 69:29; 1 Sam 25:29). In either case the notion of predestination is implied, and the assumption of the existence of a divine “book of life” (Ex 32:32-33; Dan 12:1; cf., Ps 139:16); so that the idea is the same as that of Acts 13:48: “As many as were ordained to eternal life.”
The reference here is to persons who were entered in the book of God, on account of the good kernel of faith within them, as those who should become partakers of the life in the new Jerusalem, and should therefore be spared in the midst of the judgment of sifting in accordance with this divine purpose of grace. For it was only through the judgment setting this kernel of faith at liberty, that such a holy community as is described in the protasis which comes afterwards, as in Ps 63:6-7, could possibly arise.
“When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged away the bloodguiltinesses of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of sifting.” “When,” followed by a preterite (equivalent to a fut. exact. as in Isa 24:13; Ges. §126, 5), introduces the circumstance, whose previous occurrence would be the condition of all the rest. The force of the future yâdiach (“shall have purged”) is regulated by that of the preterite râchatz, as in Isa 6:11; for although, when regarded simply by itself, as in Isa 10:12, the future tense may suggest the idea of a future prefect, it cannot have the force of such a future. The double purification answers to the two scenes of judgment described in ch. 3. The filth of the daughters of Zion is the moral pollution hidden under their vain and coquettish finery; and the murderous deeds of Jerusalem are the acts of judicial murder committed by its rulers upon the poor and innocent.
This filth and these spots of blood the Sovereign Ruler washes and purges away (see 2 Chron 4:6), by causing His spirit or His breath to burst in upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, both male and female. This breath is called “the spirit of judgment,” because it punishes evil; and “the spirit of sifting,” inasmuch as it sweeps or cleans it away. r[æB; is to be explained, as in Isa 6:13, in accordance with Deut 13:6 (5, Eng. Ver.; “put the evil away”) and other passages, such especially as Isa 19:13; 21:9. The rendering given in the Septuagint and Vulgate, viz., “in the spirit of burning,” is founded upon the radical meaning of the verb, which signifies literally to burn up, and hence to clear away or destroy (see Comm. on Job, at 31:12, Eng. Tr.).
Nevertheless, “burning” in connection with judgment is not definite enough, since every manifestation of divine judgment is a manifestation of fire; but it is not every judgment that has connected with it what is here implied-namely, the salutary object of burning away or, in other words, of winnowing. The “spirit” is in both instances the Spirit of God which pervades the world, not only generating and sustaining life, but also at times destroying and sifting (Isa 30:27-28), as it does in the case before us, in which the imperishable glory described in v. 5 is so prepared.
“And Jehovah creates over every spot of Mount Zion, and over its festal assemblies, a cloud by day, and smoke, and the shining of flaming fire by night: for over all the glory comes a canopy.” Just as Jehovah guided and shielded Israel in the days of the redemption from Egypt in a smoke-cloud by day and a fire-cloud by night, which either moved in front like a pillar, or floated above them as a roof (Num 14:14, etc.), the perpetuation of His presence at Sinai (Ex 19:9,16ff.); so would Jehovah in like manner shield the Israel of the final redemption, which would no longer need the pillar of cloud since its wanderings would be over, but only the cloudy covering; and such a covering Jehovah would create, as the praet. consec. ar;B; (“and He creates”) distinctly affirms. The verb bârâh always denotes a divine and miraculous production, having its commencement in time; for even the natural is also supernatural in its first institution by God. In the case before us, however, the reference is to a fresh manifestation of His gracious presence, exalted above the present course of nature. This manifestation would consist by day in “a cloud,” and as the hendiadys “cloud and smoke” (i.e., cloud in form and smoke in substance) distinctly affirms, a smoke-cloud, not a watery cloud, like those which ordinarily cover the sky; and by night in a fiery splendour, not merely a lingering fiery splendour like that of the evening sky, but, as the words clearly indicate, a flaming brightness (lehâbâh), and therefore real and living fire. The purpose of the cloud would not only be to overshadow, but also to serve as a wall of defence against opposing influences; and the fire would not only give light, but by flaming and flashing would ward off hostile powers. But, above all, the cloud and fire were intended as signs of the nearness of God, and His satisfaction. In the most glorious times of the temple a smokecloud of this kind filled the Holy of holies; and there was only one occasion-namely, at the dedication of Solomon’s temple-on which it filled the whole building (1 Kings 8:10); but now the cloud, the smoke of which, moreover, would be turned at night into flaming fire, would extend over every spot (mâcoon, a more poetical word for mâkoom) of Mount Zion, and over the festal assemblies thereon. The whole mountain would thus become a Holy of holies. It would be holy not only as being the dwellingplace of Jehovah, but as the gathering-place of a community of saints. “Her assemblies” (mikrâehâ) points back to Zion, and is a plural written defectively (at least in our editions as, for example, in Jer 19:8. There is no necessity to take this noun in the sense of “meeting halls’ (a meaning which it never has anywhere else), as Gesenius, Ewald, Hitzig, and others have done, since it may also signify “the meetings,” though not in an abstract, but in a concrete sense (ecclesiae). f28 The explanatory clause, “for over all the glory (comes) a canopy,” admits of several interpretations. Dr. Shegg and others take it in the general sense: “for defence and covering are coming for all that is glorious.” Now, even if this thought were not so jejune as it is, the word chuppâh would not be the word used to denote covering for the sake of protection; it signifies rather covering for the sake of beautifying and honouring that which is covered.
Chuppâh is the name still given by the Jews to the wedding canopy, i.e., a canopy supported on four poles and carried by four boys, under which the bride and bridegroom receive the nuptial blessing-a meaning which is apparently more appropriate, even in Ps 19:6 and Joel 2:16, than the ordinary explanation thalamus to torus. Such a canopy would float above Mount Zion in the form of a cloud of smoke and blaze of fire. (There is no necessity to take chuppâh as a third pers. pual, since hy;h; , which follows immediately afterwards in v. 6, may easily be supplied in thought.) The only question is whether col-câbood signifies “every kind of glory,” or according to Ps 39:6; 45:14, “pure glory” (Hofmann, Stud. u. Krit. 1847, pp. 936-38). The thought that Jerusalem would now be “all glory,” as its inhabitants were all holiness, and therefore that this shield would be spread out over pure glory, is one that thoroughly commends itself. but we nevertheless prefer the former, as more in accordance with the substantive clause. The glory which Zion would now possess would be exposed to no further injury: Jehovah would acknowledge it by signs of His gracious presence; for henceforth there would be nothing glorious in Zion, over which there would not be a canopy spread in the manner described, shading and yet enlightening, hiding, defending, and adorning it.
Thus would Zion be a secure retreat from all adversities and disasters. V. 6. “And it will be a booth for shade by day from the heat of the sun, and for a refuge and covert from storm and from rain.” The subject to “will be” is not the miraculous roofing; for ânân (cloud) is masculine, and the verb feminine, and there would be no sense in saying that a chuppâh or canopy would be a succâh or booth. Either, therefore, the verb contains the subject in itself, and the meaning is, “There will be a booth” (the verb hâyâh being used in a pregnant sense, as in Isa 15:6; 23:13); or else Zion (v. 5) is the subject. We prefer the latter. Zion or Jerusalem would be a booth, that is to say, as the parallel clause affirms, a place of security and concealment (mistor, which only occurs here, is used on account of the alliteration with machseh in the place of sether, which the prophet more usually employs, viz., in Isa 28:17; 32:2). “By day” (yoomâm, which is construed with lxe in the construct state, cf., Ezek 30:16) is left intentionally without any “by night” to answer to it in the parallel clause, because reference is made to a place of safety and concealment for all times, whether by day or night.
Heat, storm, and rain are mentioned as examples to denote the most manifold dangers; but it is a singular fact that rain, which is a blessing so earnestly desired in the time of chooreb, i.e., of drought and burning heat, should also be included. At the present day, when rain falls in Jerusalem, the whole city dances with delight. Nevertheless rain, i.e., the rain which falls from the clouds, is not paradisaical; and its effects are by no means unfrequently destructive. According to the archives of Genesis, rain from the clouds took the place of dew for the first time at the flood, when it fell in a continuous and destructive form. The Jerusalem of the last time will be paradise restored; and there men will be no longer exposed to destructive changes of weather. In this prediction the close of the prophetic discourse is linked on to the commencement. This mountain of Zion, roofed over with a cloud of smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night, is no other than the mountain of the house of Jehovah, which was to be exalted above all the mountains, and to which the nations would make their pilgrimage; and this Jerusalem, so holy within, and all glorious without, is no other than the place from which the word of Jehovah was one day to go forth into all the world.
But what Jerusalem is this? Is it the Jerusalem of the time of final glory awaiting the people of God in this life, as described in Rev 11 (for, notwithstanding all that a spiritualistic and rationalistic anti-chiliasm may say, the prophetic words of both Old and New Testament warrant us in expecting such a time of glory in this life); or is it the Jerusalem of the new heaven and new earth described in Rev. 20:21? The true answer is, “Both in one.” The prophet’s real intention was to depict the holy city in its final and imperishable state after the last judgment. But to his view, the state beyond and the closing state here were blended together, so that the glorified Jerusalem of earth and the glorified Jerusalem of heaven appeared as if fused into one. It was a distinguishing characteristic of the Old Testament, to represent the closing scene on this side the grave, and the eternal state beyond, as a continuous line, having its commencement here.
The New Testament first drew the cross line which divides time from eternity. It is true, indeed, as the closing chapters of the Apocalypse show, that even the New Testament prophecies continue to some extent to depict the state beyond in figures drawn from the present world; with this difference, however, that when the line had once been drawn, the demand was made, of which there was no consciousness in the Old Testament, that the figures taken from this life should be understood as relating to the life beyond, and that eternal realities should be separated from their temporal forms. JUDGMENT OF DEVASTATION UPON THE VINEYARD OF JEHOVAH Closing Words of the First Cycle of Prophecies The foregoing prophecy has run through all the different phases of prophetic exhortation by the time that we reach the close of ch. 4; and its leading thought, viz., the overthrow of the false glory of Israel, and the perfect establishment of true glory through the medium of judgment, has been so fully worked out, that ch. 5 cannot possibly be regarded either as a continuation or as an appendix to that address. Unquestionably there are many points in which ch. 5 refers back to ch. 2-4. The parable of the vineyard in Isa 5:1-7 grows, as it were, out of ch. 3:14; and in ch. 5:15 we have a repetition of the refrain in Isa 2:9, varied in a similar manner to ch. 2:17. But these and other points of contact with ch. 2-4, whilst they indicate a tolerable similarity in date, by no means prove the absence of independence in ch. 5. The historical circumstances of the two addresses are the same; and the range of thought is therefore closely related. But the leading idea which is carried out in ch. 5 is a totally different one. The basis of the address is a parable representing Israel as the vineyard of Jehovah, which, contrary to all expectation, had produced bad fruit, and therefore was given up to devastation. What kind of bad fruit it produced is described in a six-fold “woe;” and what kind of devastation was to follow is indicated in the dark nocturnal conclusion to the whole address, which is entirely without a promise.
The prophet commenced his first address in ch. 1 like another Moses; the second, which covered no less ground, he opened with the text of an earlier prophecy; and now he commences the third like a musician, addressing both himself and his hearers with enticing words. V. 1a. “Arise, I will sing of my beloved, a song of my dearest touching his vineyard.” The fugitive rhythm, the musical euphony, the charming assonances in this appeal, it is impossible to reproduce. They are perfectly inimitable. The Lamed in liidiidii is the Lamed objecti. The person to whom the song referred, to whom it applied, of whom it treated, was the singer’s own beloved. It was a song of his dearest one (not his cousin, patruelis, as Luther renders it in imitation of the Vulgate, for the meaning of dood is determined by yâdid, beloved) touching his vineyard. The Lamed in l’carmo is also Lamed objecti. The song of the beloved is really a song concerning the vineyard of the beloved; and this song is a song of the beloved himself, not a song written about him, or attributed to him, but such a song as he himself had sung, and still had to sing.
The prophet, by beginning in this manner, was surrounded (either in spirit or in outward reality) by a crowd of people from Jerusalem and Judah. The song is a short one, and runs thus in vv. 1b, 2: “My beloved had a vineyard on a fatly nourished mountain-horn, and dug it up and cleared it of stones, and planted it with noble vines, and built a tower in it, and also hewed out a wine-press therein; and hoped that it would bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.” The vineyard was situated upon a keren, i.e., upon a prominent mountain peak projecting like a horn, and therefore open to the sun on all sides; for, as Virgil says in the Georgics, “apertos Bacchus amat colles.” This mountain horn was ben-shemen, a child of fatness: the fatness was innate, it belonged to it by nature (shemen is used, as in Isa 28:1, to denote the fertility of a nutritive loamy soil). And the owner of the vineyard spared no attention or trouble.
The plough could not be used, from the steepness of the mountain slope: he therefore dug it up, that is to say, he turned up the soil which was to be made into a vineyard with a hoe (izzeek, to hoe; Arab. mi’zak, mi’zaka); and as he found it choked up with stones and boulders, he got rid of this rubbish by throwing it out sikkeel, a privative piel, lapidibus purgare, then operam consumere in lapides, sc. ejiciendos, to stone, or clear of stones:
Ges. §52, 2). After the soil had been prepared he planted it with sorek, i.e., the finest kind of eastern vine, bearing small grapes of a bluish-red, with pips hardly perceptible to the tongue. The name is derived from its colour (compare the Arabic zerka, red wine). To protect and adorn the vineyard which had been so richly planted, he built a tower in the midst of it. The expression “and also” calls especial attention to the fact that he hewed out a wine-trough therein (yekeb, the trough into which the must or juice pressed from the grapes in the wine-press flows, lacus as distinguished from torcular); that is to say, in order that the trough might be all the more fixed and durable, he constructed it in a rocky portion of the ground (châtseeb bo instead of chatsab bo, with a and the accent drawn back, because a Beth was thereby easily rendered inaudible, so that châtseeb is not a participial adjective, as Böttcher supposes). This was a difficult task, as the expression “and also” indicates; and for that very reason it was an evidence of the most confident expectation. But how bitterly was this deceived! The vineyard produced no such fruit, as might have been expected from a sorek plantation; it brought forth no ‘anâbim whatever, i.e., no such grapes as a cultivated vine should bear, but only b’ushim, or wild grapes. Luther first of all adopted the rendering wild grapes, and then altered it to harsh or sour grapes. But it comes to the same thing. The difference between a wild vine and a good vine is only qualitative. The vitis vinifera, like all cultivated plants, is assigned to the care of man, under which it improves; whereas in its wild state it remains behind its true intention (see Genesis, §622). Consequently the word b’ushim (from bâ’ash, to be bad, or smell bad) denotes not only the grapes of the wild vine, which are naturally small and harsh (Rashi, lambruches, i.e., grapes of the labrusca, which is used now, however, as the botanical name of a vine that is American in its origin), but also grapes of a good stock, which have either been spoiled or have failed to ripen. f29 These were the grapes which the vineyard produced, such as you might indeed have expected from a wild vine, but not from carefully cultivated vines of the very choicest kind.
The song of the beloved who was so sorely deceived terminates here. The prophet recited it, not his beloved himself; but as they were both of one heart and one soul, the prophet proceeds thus in vv. 3 and 4: “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard! What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore did I hope that it would bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes?” The fact that the prophet speaks as if he were the beloved himself, shows at once who the beloved must be. The beloved of the prophet and the lover of the prophet (yâdid and dood) were Jehovah, with whom he was so united by a union mystica exalted above all earthly love, that, like the angel of Jehovah in the early histories, he could speak as if he were Jehovah Himself (see especially Zech. 2:12-15). To any one with spiritual intuition, therefore, the parabolical meaning and object of the song would be at once apparent; and even the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah (yoosheeb and iish are used collectively, as in Isa 8:14; 9:8; 22:21, cf., 20:6) were not so stupefied by sin, that they could not perceive to what the prophet was leading. It was for them to decide where the guilt of this unnatural issue lay-that is to say, of this thorough contradiction between the “doing” of the vineyard and the “doing” of the Lord; that instead of the grapes he hoped for, it brought forth wild grapes. (On the expression “what could have been done,” quid faciendum est, mah-la’asoth, see at Hab 1:17, Ges. §132, Anm. 1.) Instead of hm; hm; ) we have the more suitable term [æWDmæ , the latter being used in relation to the actual cause (causa efficiens), the former in relation to the object (causa finalis). The parallel to the second part, viz., Isa 50:2, resembles the passage before us, not only in the use of this particular word, but also in the fact that there, as well as here, it relates to both clauses, and more especially to the latter of the two. We find the same paratactic construction in connection with other conjunctions (cf., Isa 12:1; 65:12). They were called upon to decide and answer as to this what and wherefore; but they were silent, just because they could clearly see that they would have to condemn themselves (as David condemned himself in connection with Nathan’s parable,2 Sam 12:5). The Lord of the vineyard, therefore, begins to speak. He, its accuser, will now also be its judge.
“Now then, I will tell you what I will do at once to my vineyard: take away its hedge, and it shall be for grazing; pull down its wall, and it shall be for treading down.” Before “now then” (v’attâh) we must imagine a pause, as in Isa 3:14. The Lord of the vineyard breaks the silence of the umpires, which indicates their consciousness of guilt. They shall hear from Him what He will do at once to His vineyard (Lamed in l’carmi, as, for example, in Deut 11:6). “I will do:” ani ‘ooseh, fut. instans, equivalent to facturus sum (Ges. §134, 2, b). In the inf. abs. which follow He opens up what He will do. On this explanatory use of the inf. abs., see Isa 20:2; 58:6-7. In such cases as these it takes the place of the object, as in other cases of the subject, but always in an abrupt manner (Ges. §131, 1). He would take away the mesucah, i.e., the green thorny hedge (Prov 15:19; Hos 2:8) with which the vineyard was enclosed, and would pull down the gâreed, i.e., the low stone wall (Num 22:24; Prov 24:31), which had been surrounded by the hedge of thorn-bushes to make a better defence, as well as for the protection of the wall itself, more especially against being undermined; so that the vineyard would be given up to grazing and treading down (LXX katapa>thma ), i.e., would become an open way and gathering-place for man and beast. ISAIAH 5:6 This puts an end to the unthankful vineyard, and indeed a hopeless one. V. 6. “And I will put an end to it: it shall not be pruned nor digged, and it shall break out in thorns and thistles; and I will command the clouds to rain no rain over it.” “Put an end:” bâthâh (= battâh: Ges. §67, Anm. 11) signifies, according to the primary meaning of bâthath tWB, b¦hat, see at Isa 1:29), viz., abscindere, either abscissum = locus abscissus or praeruptus (Isa 7:19), or abscissio = deletio. The latter is the meaning here, where shiith bâthâh is a refined expression for the more usual hl;K; `hc;[; , both being construed with the accusative of the thing which is brought to an end.
Further pruning and hoeing would do it no good, but only lead to further disappointment: it was the will of the Lord, therefore, that the deceitful vineyard should shoot up in thorns and thistles (‘âlâh is applied to the soil, as in Isa 34:13 and Prov 24:31; shâmir vâshaith, thorns and thistles, are in the accusative, according to Ges. §138, 1, Anm. 2; and both the words themselves, and also their combination, are exclusively and peculiarly Isaiah’s). f30 In order that it might remain a wilderness, the clouds would also receive commandment from the Lord not to rain upon it. There can be no longer any doubt who the Lord of the vineyard is. He is Lord of the clouds, and therefore the Lord of heaven and earth. It is He who is the prophet’s beloved and dearest one. The song which opened in so minstrel-like and harmless a tone, has now become painfully severe and terribly repulsive.
The husk of the parable, which has already been broken through, now falls completely off (cf., Matt 22:13; 25:30). What it sets forth in symbol is really true. This truth the prophet establishes by an open declaration.
“For the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the plantation of His delight: He waited for justice, and behold grasping; for righteousness, and behold a shriek.” The meaning is not that the Lord of the vineyard would not let any more rain fall upon it, because this Lord was Jehovah (which is not affirmed in fact in the words commencing with “for,” ci), but a more general one. This was how the case stood with the vineyard; for all Israel, and especially the people of Judah, were this vineyard, which had so bitterly deceived the expectations of its Lord, and indeed “the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts,” and therefore of the omnipotent God, whom even the clouds would serve when He came forth to punish. The expression “for” (ci) is not only intended to vindicate the truth of the last statement, but the truth of the whole simile, including this: it is an explanatory “for” (ci explic.), which opens the epimythion. “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts” (cerem Jehovah Zebaoth) is the predicate. “The house of Israel (beth Yisrâel) was the whole nation, which is also represented in other passages under the same figure of a vineyard (Isa 27:2ff.; Ps 80, etc.). But as Isaiah was prophet in Judah, he applies the figure more particularly to Judah, which was called Jehovah’s favourite plantation, inasmuch as it was the seat of the divine sanctuary and of the Davidic kingdom. This makes it easy enough to interpret the different parts of the simile employed. The fat mountain-horn was Canaan, flowing with milk and honey (Ex 15:17); the digging of the vineyard, and clearing it of stones, was the clearing of Canaan from its former heathen inhabitants (Ps 54:3); the sorek-vines were the holy priests and prophets and kings of Israel of the earlier and better times (Jer 2:21); the defensive and ornamental tower in the midst of the vineyard was Jerusalem as the royal city, with Zion the royal fortress (Mic 4:8); the winepress-trough was the temple, where, according to Ps 36:9 (8), the wine of heavenly pleasures flowed in streams, and from which, according to Ps 42 and many other passages, the thirst of the soul might all be quenched.
The grazing and treading down are explained in Jer 5:10 and 12:10. The bitter deception experienced by Jehovah is expressed in a play upon two words, indicating the surprising change of the desired result into the very opposite. The explanation which Gesenius, Caspari, Knobel, and others give of mispâch, viz., bloodshed, does not commend itself; for even if it must be admitted that sâphach occurs once or twice in the “Arabizing” book of Job (Job 30:7; 14:19) in the sense of pouring out, this verbal root is strange to the Hebrew (and the Aramaean). Moreover, mispâch in any case would only mean pouring or shedding, and not bloodshed; and although the latter would certainly be possible by the side of the Arabic saffâch, saffâk (shedder of blood), yet it would be such an ellipsis as cannot be shown anywhere else in Hebrew usage. On the other hand, the rendering “leprosy” does not yield any appropriate sense, as mispachath (sappachath) is never generalized anywhere else into the single idea of “dirt” (Luzzatto: sozzura), nor does it appear as an ethical notion. We therefore prefer to connect it with a meaning unquestionably belonging to the verb cpch (see kal, 1 Sam. 3:36; niphal, ch. 14:1; hithpael, 1 Sam 26:19), which is derived in ãsæy; , ãsæa; , ãWs , from the primary notion “to sweep,” spec. to sweep towards, sweep in, or sweep away. Hence we regard mispach as denoting the forcible appropriation of another man’s property; certainly a suitable antithesis to mishpât. The prophet describes, in full-toned figures, how the expected noble grapes had turned into wild grapes, with nothing more than an outward resemblance. The introduction to the prophecy closes here.
The prophecy itself follows next, a seven-fold discourse composed of the six-fold woe contained in vv. 8-23, and the announcement of punishment in which it terminates. In this six-fold woe the prophet describes the bad fruits one by one. In confirmation of our rendering of mispâch, the first woe relates to covetousness and avarice as the root of all evil.
“Woe unto them that join house to house, who lay field to field, till there is no more room, and ye alone are dwelling in the midst of the land.” The participle is continued in the finite verb, as in v. 23; Isa 10:1; the regular syntactic construction is cases of this kind (Ges. §134, Anm. 2). The preterites after “till” (there are to such preterites, for ‘ephes is an intensified ˆyiaæ enclosing the verbal idea) correspond to future perfects: “They, the insatiable, would not rest till, after every smaller piece of landed property had been swallowed by them, the whole land had come into their possession, and no one beside themselves was settled in the land” (Job 22:8). Such covetousness was all the more reprehensible, because the law of Israel and provided so very stringently and carefully, that as far as possible there should be an equal distribution of the soil, and that hereditary family property should be inalienable. All landed property that had been alienated reverted to the family every fiftieth year, or year of jubilee; so that alienation simply had reference to the usufruct of the land till that time. It was only in the case of houses in towns that the right of redemption was restricted to one year, at least according to a later statute.
How badly the law of the year of jubilee had been observed, may be gathered from Jer 34, where we learn that the law as to the manumission of Hebrew slaves in the sabbatical year had fallen entirely into neglect. Isaiah’s contemporary, Micah, makes just the same complaint as Isaiah himself (vid., Mic 2:2).
And the denunciation of punishment is made by him in very similar terms to those which we find here in vv. 9, 10: “Into mine ears Jehovah of hosts: Of a truth many houses shall become a wilderness, great and beautiful ones deserted. For ten yokes of vineyard will yield one pailful, and a quarter of seed-corn will produce a bushel.” We may see from Isa 22:14 in what sense the prophet wrote the substantive clause, “Into mine ears,” or more literally, “In mine ears is Jehovah Zebaoth,” viz., He is here revealing Himself to me. In the pointing, ˆz,aO is written with tiphchah as a pausal form, to indicate to the reader that the boldness of the expression is to be softened down by the assumption of an ellipsis. In Hebrew, “to say into the ears” did not mean to “speak softly and secretly,” as Gen 23:10,16; Job 33:8, and other passages, clearly show; but to speak in a distinct and intelligible manner, which precludes the possibility of any misunderstanding.
The prophet, indeed, had not Jehovah standing locally beside him; nevertheless, he had Him objectively over against his own personality, and was well able to distinguish very clearly the thoughts and words of his own personality, from the words of Jehovah which arose audibly within him.
These words informed him what would be the fate of the rich and insatiable landowners. “Of a truth:” aloAµai (if not) introduces an oath of an affirmative character (the complete formula is chai ani ‘im-lo’, “as I live if not”), just as ‘im (if) alone introduces a negative oath (e.g., Num 14:23).
The force of the expression ‘im-lo’ extends not only to rabbim, as the false accentuation with gershayim (double-geresh) would make it appear, but to the whole of the following sentence, as it is correctly accentuated with rebia in the Venetian (1521) and other early editions. A universal desolation would ensue: rabbim (many) does not mean less than all; but the houses (bâttim, as the word should be pronounced, notwithstanding Ewald’s objection to Köhler’s remarks on Zech 14:2; cf., Job, 2:31) constituted altogether a very large number (compare the use of the word “many” in Isa 2:3; Matt 20:28, etc.). ˆyiaæ is a double, and therefore an absolute, negation (so that there is not, no inhabitant, i.e., not any inhabitant at all). V. 10, which commences, with ci, explains how such a desolation of the houses would be brought about: failure of crops produces famine, and this is followed by depopulation. “Ten zimdee (with dagesh lene, Ewald) of vineyard” are either ten pieces of the size that a man could plough in one day with a yoke of oxen, or possibly ten portions of yoke-like espaliers of vines, i.e., of vines trained on cross laths (the vina jugata of Varro), which is the explanation adopted by Biesenthal. But if we compare 1 Sam 14:14, the former is to be preferred, although the links are wanting which would enable us to prove that the early Israelites had one and the same system of land measure as the Romans; nevertheless Arab. fddân (in Hauran) is precisely similar, and this word signifies primarily a yoke of oxen, and then a yoke (jugerum) regarded as a measure of land. Ten days’ work would only yield a single bath. This liquid measure, which was first introduced in the time of the kings, corresponded to the ephah in dry measure (Ezek 45:11). According to Josephus (Ant. viii. 2, 9), it was equal to seventy-two Roman sextarii, i.e., a little more than thirty-three Berlin quarts; but in the time of Isaiah it was probably smaller. The homer, a dry measure, generally called a cor after the time of the kings, was equal to ten Attic medimnoi; f32 a medimnos being (according to Josephus, Ant. xv. 9, 2) about 15-16ths of a Berlin bushel, and therefore a little more than fifteen pecks. Even if this quantity of corn should be sown, they would not reap more than an ephah.
The harvest, therefore, would only yield the tenth part of the sowing, since an ephah was the tenth part of a homer, or three seahs, the usual minimum for one baking (vid., Matt 13:33). It is, of course, impossible to give the relative measure exactly in our translation.
The second woe, for which the curse about to fall upon vinedressing (v. 10a) prepared the way by the simple association of ideas, is directed against the debauchees, who in their carnal security carried on their excesses even in the daylight. V. 11. “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning to run after strong drink; who continue till late at night with wine inflaming them!” Boker (from bâkar, bakara, to slit, to tear up, or split) is the break of day; and nesheph (from nâshaph, to blow) the cool of the evening, including the night (Isa 21:4; 59:10); ‘ichër, to continue till late, as in Prov 23:30: the construct state before words with a preposition, as in Isa 9:2; 28:9, and many other passages (Ges. §116, 1). Sheecâr, in connection with yayin, is the general name for every other kind of strong drink, more especially for wines made artificially from fruit, honey, raisins, dates, etc., including barley-wine ( oi>nov kri>qinov ) or beer ( ek kriqw>n me>qu in Aeschylus, also called bru>ton bruto>n zu>qov zu>qov , and by many other names), a beverage known in Egypt, which was half a wine country and half a beer country, from as far back as the time of the Pharaohs. The form sheecâr is composed, like `bn;[e (with the fore-tone tsere), from shâcar, to intoxicate; according to the Arabic, literally to close by stopping up, i.e., to stupefy. f33 The clauses after the two participles are circumstantial clauses (Ewald, §341, b), indicating the circumstances under which they ran out so early, and sat till long after dark: they hunted after mead, they heated themselves with wine, namely, to drown the consciousness of their deeds of darkness.
Ver. 12 describes how they go on in their blindness with music and carousing: “And guitar and harp, kettle-drum, and flute, and wine, is their feast; but they regard not the work of Jehovah, and see not the purpose of His hands.” “Their feast” is so and so hT,v]mi is only a plural in appearance; it is really a singular, as in Dan 1:10,16, and many other passages, with the Yod of the primary form, yTæv]mi = hT,v]mi , softened: see the remarks on `hl,[; at Isa 1:30, and `hc;[; at Isa 22:11); that is to say, their feast consisted or was composed of exciting music and wine. Knobel construes it, “and there are guitar, etc., and wine is their drink;” but a divided sentence of this kind is very tame; and the other expression, based upon the general principle, “The whole is its parts,” is thoroughly Semitic (see Fleischer’s Abhandlungen über einige Arten der Nominalapposition in den Sitzungsberichten der sächs. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaft, 1862).
Cinnor (guitar) is a general name for such instruments as have their strings drawn (upon a bridge) over a sounding board; and nebel (the harp and lyre) a general name for instruments with their strings hung freely, so as to be played with both hands at the same time. Toph (Arab. duff) is a general name for the tambourin, the drum, and the kettle-drum; chalil (lit. that which is bored through) a general name for the flute and double flute. In this tumult and riot they had no thought or eye for the work of Jehovah and the purpose of His hands. This is the phrase used to express the idea of eternal counsel of God (Isa 37:26), which leads to salvation by the circuitous paths of judgment (Isa 10:12; 28:21; 29:23), so far as that counsel is embodied in history, as moulded by the invisible interposition of God. In their joy and glory they had no sense for what was the most glorious of all, viz., the moving and working of God in history; so that they could not even discern the judgment which was in course of preparation at that very time.
Therefore judgment would overtake them in this blind, dull, and stupid animal condition. V. 13. “Therefore my people go into banishment without knowing; and their glory will become starving men, and their tumult men dried up with thirst.” As the word “therefore” (lâceen, as in Isa 1:24) introduces the threat of punishment, gâlâh (go into captivity) is a prophetic preterite. Israel would go into exile, and that “without knowing” (mibb’lida’ath).
The meaning of this expression cannot be “from want of knowledge,” since the min which is fused into one word with b’li is not causal, but negative, and mibb’li, as a preposition, always signifies “without” (absque). But are we to render it “without knowing it” (as in Hos 4:6, where hadda’ath has the article), or “unawares?” There is no necessity for any dispute on this point, since the two renderings are fundamentally one and the same.
The knowledge, of which v. 12 pronounces them destitute, was more especially a knowledge of the judgment of God that was hanging over them; so that, as the captivity would come upon them without knowledge, it would necessarily come upon them unawares. “Their glory” (ceboodoo) and “their tumult” (hamono) are therefore to be understood, as the predicates show, as collective nouns used in a personal sense, the former signifying the more select portion of the nation (cf., Mic 1:15), the latter the mass of the people, who were living in rioting and tumult. The former would become “men of famine” (methee rââb: tmæ , like vyai in other places, viz., 2 Sam 19:29, or ˆBe , 1 Sam 26:16); the latter “men dried up with thirst” (tsicheeh tsâmâh: the same number as the subject). There is no necessity to read tmæ (dead men) instead of tmæ , as the LXX and Vulgate do, or hz,m, (m¦zeeh) according to Deut 32:24, as Hitzig, Ewald, Böttcher, and others propose (compare, on the contrary, Gen 34:30 and Job 11:11).
The adjective tzicheh (hapax leg.) is formed like chireesh, ceeheh, and other adjectives which indicate defects: in such formations from verbs Lamed-He, instead of e we have an ae that has grown out of ay (Olshausen, §182, b). The rich gluttons would starve, and the tippling crowd would die with thirst.
The threat of punishment commences again with “therefore;” it has not yet satisfied itself, and therefore grasps deeper still. V. 14. “Therefore the under-world opens its jaws wide, and stretches open its mouth immeasurably wide; and the glory of Jerusalem descends, and its tumult, and noise, and those who rejoice within it.” The verbs which follow lâceen (therefore) are prophetic preterites, as in v. 13. The feminine suffixes attached to what the lower world swallows up do not refer to sheol (though this is construed more frequently, no doubt, as a feminine than as a masculine, as it is in Job 26:6), but, as expressed in the translation, to Jerusalem itself, which is also necessarily required by the last clause, “those who rejoice within it.” The withdrawal of the tone from `zle[; to the penultimate (cf., châpheetz in Ps 18:20; 22:9) is intentionally omitted, to cause the rolling and swallowing up to be heard as it were.
A mouth is ascribed to the under-world, also a nephesh, i.e., a greedy soul, in which sense nephesh is then applied metonymically sometimes to a thirst for blood (Ps 27:12), and sometimes to simple greediness (Isa 56:11), and even, as in the present passage and Hab 2:5, to the throat or swallow which the soul opens “without measure,” when its craving knows no bounds (Psychol. p. 204). It has become a common thing now to drop entirely the notion which formerly prevailed, that the noun sheol was derived from the verb shâal in the sense in which it was generally employed, viz., to ask or demand; but Caspari, who has revived it again, is certainly so far correct, that the derivation of the word which the prophet had in his mind was this and no other. The word sheol (an infinitive form, like pekood) signifies primarily the irresistible and inexorable demand made upon every earthly thing; and then secondarily, in a local sense, the place of the abode of shades, to which everything on the surface of the earth is summoned; or essentially the divinely appointed curse which demands and swallows up everything upon the earth. We simply maintain, however, that the word sheol, as generally sued, was associated in thought with shâal, to ask or demand. Originally, no doubt, it may have been derived from the primary and more material idea of the verb laæv; , possibly from the meaning “to be hollow,” which is also assumed to be the primary meaning of l[v .
At any rate, this derivation answers to the view that generally prevailed in ancient times. According to the prevalent idea, Hades was in the interior of the earth. And there was nothing really absurd in this, since it is quite within the power and freedom of the omnipresent God to manifest Himself wherever and however He may please. As He reveals Himself above the earth, i.e., in heaven, among blessed spirits in the light of His love; so did He reveal Himself underneath the earth, viz., in Sheôl, in the darkness and fire of His wrath. And with the exception of Enoch and Elijah, with their marvellous departure from this life, the way of every mortal ended there, until the time when Jesus Christ, having first paid the lu>tron , i.e., having shed His blood, which covers our guilt and turns the wrath of God into love, descended into Hades and ascended into heaven, and from that time forth has changed the death of all believers from a descent into Hades into an ascension to heaven.
But even under the Old Testament the believer may have known, that whoever hid himself on this side the grave in Jehovah the living One, would retain his eternal germ of life even in Sheôl in the midst of the shades, and would taste the love of God even in the midst of wrath. It was this postulate of faith which lay at the foundation of the fact, that even under the Old Testament the broader and more comprehensive idea of Sheôl began to be contracted into the more limited notion of hell (see Psychol. p. 415). This is the case in the passage before us, where Isaiah predicts of everything of which Jerusalem was proud, and in which it revelled, including the persons who rejoice din these things, a descent into Hades; just as the Korahite author of Ps 49 wrote (v. 14) that the beauty of the wicked would be given up to Hades to be consumed, without having hereafter any place in the upper world, when the upright should have dominion over them in the morning. Hades even here is almost equivalent to the New Testament gehenna.
The prophet now repeats a thought which formed one of the refrains of the second prophetic address (Isa 2:9,11, cf., v. 17). It acquires here a still deeper sense, from the context in which it stands. Vv. 15, 16. “Then are mean men bowed down, and lords humbled, and the eyes of lofty men are humbled. And Jehovah of hosts shows Himself exalted in judgment, and God the Holy One sanctifies Himself in righteousness.” That which had exalted itself from earth to heaven, would be cast down earthwards into hell. The consecutive futures depict the coming events, which are here represented as historically present, as the direct sequel of what is also represented as present in v. 14: Hades opens, and then both low and lofty in Jerusalem sink down, and the soaring eyes now wander about in horrible depths. God, who is both exalted and holy in Himself, demanded that as the exalted One He should be exalted, and that as the Holy One He should be sanctified.
But Jerusalem had not done that; He would therefore prove Himself the exalted One by the execution of justice, and sanctify Himself (nikdash is to be rendered as a reflective verb, according to Ezek 36:23; 38:23) by the manifestation of righteousness, in consequence of which the people of Jerusalem would have to give Him glory against their will, as forming part of “the things under the earth” (Phil 2:10). Jerusalem has been swallowed up twice in this manner by Hades; once in the Chaldean war, and again in the Roman. But the invisible background of these outward events was the fact, that it had already fallen under the power of hell. And now, even in a more literal sense, ancient Jerusalem, like the company of Korah (Num 16:30,33), has gone underground. Just as Babylon and Nineveh, the ruins of which are dug out of the inexhaustible mine of their far-stretching foundation and soil, have sunk beneath the ground; so do men walk about in modern Jerusalem over the ancient Jerusalem, which lies buried beneath; and many an enigma of topography will remain an enigma until ancient Jerusalem has been dug out of the earth again.
And when we consider that the Holy Land is at the present time an extensive pasture-ground for Arab shepherds, and that the modern Jerusalem which has arisen from the dust is a Mohammedan city, we may see in this also a literal fulfilment of v. 17: “And lambs feed as upon their pasture, and nomad shepherds eat the waste places of the fat ones.” There is no necessity to supply an object to the verb h[;r; , as Knobel and others assume, viz., the waste lands mentioned in the second clause; nor is cedâbrâm to be taken as the object, as Caspari supposes; but the place referred to is determined by the context: in the place where Jerusalem is sunken, there lambs feed after the manner of their own pasture-ground, i.e., just as if they were in their old accustomed pasture (dober, as in Mic 2:12, from dâbar, to drive). The lambs intended are those of the gârim mentioned in the second clause. The gârim themselves are men leading an unsettled, nomad, or pilgrim life; as distinguished from geerim, strangers visiting, or even settled at a place. The LXX have a>rnev , so that they must have read either cârim or gedâim, which Ewald, Knobel, and others adopt.
But one feature of the prophecy, which is sustained by the historical fulfilment, is thereby obliterated. Chârboth meechim are the lands of those that were formerly marrowy, i.e., fat and strutting about in their fulness; which lands had now become waste places. Knobel’s statement, that âcal is out of place in connection with gârim, is overthrown by Isa 1:7, to which he himself refers, though he makes he-goats the subject instead of men.
The second woe closes with v. 17. It is the longest of all. This also serves to confirm the fact that luxury was the leading vice of Judah in the time of Uzziah-Jotham, as it was that of Israel under Jeroboam II (see Amos 6, where the same threat is held out).
The third woe is directed against the supposed strong-minded men, who called down the judgment of God by presumptuous sins and wicked words.
V. 18. “Woe unto them that draw crime with cords of lying, and sin as with the rope of the waggon.” Knobel and most other commentators take mâshak in the sense of attrahere (to draw towards one’s self): “They draw towards them sinful deeds with cords of lying palliation, and the cart-rope of the most daring presumption;” and cite, as parallel examples, Job 40:25 and Hos 11:4. But as mâshak is also used in Deut 21:3 in the sense of drawing in a yoke, that is to say, drawing a plough or chariot; and as the waggon or cart (agâlâh, the word commonly used for a transport-waggon, as distinguished from mercâbâh, the state carriage or war chariot: see Genesis, pp. 562-3) is expressly mentioned here, the figure employed is certainly the same as that which underlies the New Testament eJterozugei>n (“unequally yoked,” 2 Cor 6:14). Iniquity was the burden which they drew after them with cords of lying (shâv’h: see at Ps 26:4 and Job 15:31), i.e., “want of character or religion;” and sin was the waggon to which they were harnessed as if with a thick cart-rope (Hofmann, Drechsler, and Caspari; see Ewald, §221, a). Iniquity and sin are mentioned here as carrying with them their own punishment. The definite `ˆwO[; (crime or misdeed) is generic, and the indefinite ha;F;jæ qualitative and massive. There is a bitter sarcasm involved in the bold figure employed. They were proud of their unbelief; but this unbelief was like a halter with which, like beasts of burden, they were harnessed to sin, and therefore to the punishment of sin, which they went on drawing further and further, in utter ignorance of the waggon behind them.
Ver. 19 shows very clearly that the prophet referred to the free-thinkers of his time, the persons who are called fools (nabal) and scorners (leetz) in the Psalms and Proverbs. “Who say, Let Him hasten, accelerate His work, that we may see; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come, that we may experience it.” They doubted whether the day of Jehovah would ever come (Ezek 12:22; Jer 5:12-13), and went so far in their unbelief as to call out for what they could not and would not believe, and desired it to come that they might see it with their own eyes and experience it for themselves (Jer 17:15; it is different in Amos 5:18 and Mal 2:17-3:1, where this desire does not arise from scorn and defiance, but from impatience and weakness of faith). As the two verbs denoting haste are used both transitively and intransitively (vid., Judg 20:37, to hasten or make haste), we might render the passage “let His work make haste,” as Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, and Drechsler do; but we prefer the rendering adopted by Gesenius, Caspari, and Knobel, on the basis of Isa 60:22, and take the verb as transitive, and Jehovah as the subject. The forms yâchishâh and taboâh are, with Ps 20:4 and Job 11:17, probably the only examples of the expression of a wish in the third person, strengthened by the âh, which indicates a summons or appeal; for Ezek 23:20, which Gesenius cites (§48, 3), and Job 22:21, to which Knobel refers, have no connection with this, as in both passages the âh is the feminine termination, and not hortative (vid., Comm. on Job, at 11:17, note, and at 22:21). The fact that the freethinkers called God “the Holy One of Israel,” whereas they scoffed at His intended final and practical attestation of Himself as the Holy One, may be explained from Isa 30:11: they took this name of God from the lips of the prophet himself, so that their scorn affected both God and His prophet at the same time.
The fourth woe: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who give out darkness for light, and light for darkness; who give out bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” The previous woe had reference to those who made the facts of sacred history the butt of their naturalistic doubt and ridicule, especially so far as they were the subject of prophecy. This fourth woe relates to those who adopted a code of morals that completely overturned the first principles of ethics, and was utterly opposed to the law of God; for evil, darkness, and bitter, with their respective antitheses, represent moral principles that are essentially related (Matt 6:23; James 3:11), Evil, as hostile to God, is dark in its nature, and therefore loves darkness, and is exposed to the punitive power of darkness. And although it may be sweet to the material taste, it is nevertheless bitter, inasmuch as it produces abhorrence and disgust in the godlike nature of man, and, after a brief period of self-deception, is turned into the bitter woe of fatal results.
Darkness and light, bitter and sweet, therefore, are not tautological metaphors for evil and good; but epithets applied to evil and good according to their essential principles, and their necessary and internal effects.
The fifth woe: “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.” The third woe had reference to the unbelieving naturalists, the opponents of prophecy (nebuâh); the fourth to the moralists, who threw all into confusion; and to this there is appended, by a very natural association of ideas, the woe denounced upon those whom want of humility rendered inaccessible to that wisdom which went hand in hand with prophecy, and the true foundation of which was the fear of Jehovah (Prov 1:7; Job 28:28; Eccl 12:13). “Be not wise in thine own eyes,” is a fundamental rule of this wisdom(Prov. Prov 3:7). It was upon this wisdom that that prophetic policy rested, whose warnings, as we read in Isa 28:9-10, they so scornfully rejected. The next woe, which has reference to the administration of justice in the state, shows very clearly that in this woe the prophet had more especially the want of theocratic wisdom in relation to the affairs of state in his mind.
The sixth woe: “Woe to those who are heroes to drink wine, and brave men to mix strong drink; who acquit criminals for a bribe, and take away from every one the righteousness of the righteous.” We see from v. 23 that the drinkers in v. 22 are unjust judges. The threat denounced against these is Isaiah’s universal ceterum censeo; and accordingly it forms, in this instance also, the substance of his sixth and last woe. They are heroes; not, however, in avenging wrong, but in drinking wine; they are men of renown, though not for deciding between guilt and innocence, but for mixing up the ingredients of strong artistic wines. For the terms applied to such mixed wines, see Ps 75:9; Prov 23:30, Song of Sol. 7:3. It must be borne in mind, however, that what is here called shecâr was not, properly speaking, wine, but an artificial mixture, like date wine and cider. For such things as these they were noteworthy and strong; whereas they judged unjustly, and took bribes that they might consume the reward of their injustice in drink and debauchery (Isa 28:7-8; Prov 31:5). “For reward:” eekeb (Arab. ‘ukb; different from âkeeb, a heel, = ‘akib) is an adverbial accusative, “in recompense,” or “for pay.” “From him” (mimmennu) is distributive, and refers back to tsaddikim (the righteous); as, for example, in Hos 4:8.
In the three exclamations in vv. 18-21, Jehovah rested contented with the simple undeveloped “woe” (hoi). On the other hand, the first two utterances respecting the covetous and the debauchees were expanded into an elaborate denunciation of punishment. But now that the prophet has come to the unjust judges, the denunciation of punishment bursts out with such violence, that a return to the simple exclamation of “woe” is not to be thought of. The two “therefores” in vv. 13, 14, a third is now added in v. 24: “Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours stubble, and hay sinks together in the flame, their root will become like mould, and their blossom fly up like dust; for they have despised the law of Jehovah of hosts, and scornfully rejected the proclamation of the Holy One of Israel.” The persons primarily intended as those described in vv. 22, 23, but with a further extension of the range of vision to Judah and Jerusalem, the vineyard of which they are the bad fruit.
The sinners are compared to a plant which moulders into dust both above and below, i.e., altogether (cf., Mal. 3:19, and the expression, “Let there be to him neither root below nor branch above,” in the inscription upon the sarcophagus of the Phoenician king Ev>mun>azar ). Their root moulders in the earth, and their blossom (perach, as in Isa 18:5) turns to fine dust, which the wind carries away. And this change in root and blossom takes place suddenly, as if through the force of fire. In the expression ce’ecol kash leshon ‘eesh (“as the tongue of fire devours stubble”), which consists of four short words with three sibilant letters, we hear, as it were, the hissing of the flame. When the infinitive construct is connected with both subject and object, the subject generally stands first, as in Isa 64:1; but here the object is placed first, as in ch. 20:1 (Ges. §133, 3; Ewald, §307). In the second clause, the infinitive construct passes over into the finite verb, just as in the similarly constructed passage in Isa 64:1. As yirpeh has the intransitive meaning collabi, to sink together, or collapse; either lehâbâh must be an acc. loci, or chashash lehâbâh the construct state, signifying flame-hay, i.e., hay destined to the flame, or ascending in flame. f35 As the reason for the sudden dissolution of the plantation of Judah, instead of certain definite sins being mentioned, the sin of all sins is given at once, namely, the rejection of the word of God with the heart (mâ’as), and in word and deed (ni’eets). The double ‘eeth (with yethib immediately before pashta, as in eleven passages in all; see Heidenheim’s Mispetê hate’amim, p. 20) and v’eeth (with tebir) give prominence to the object; and the interchange of Jehovah of hosts with the Holy One of Israel makes the sin appear all the greater on account of the exaltation and holiness of God, who revealed Himself in this word, and indeed had manifested Himself to Israel as His own peculiar people. The prophet no sooner mentions the great sin of Judah, than the announcement of punishment receives, as it were, fresh fuel, and bursts out again.
“Therefore is the wrath of Jehovah kindled against His people, and He stretches His hand over them, and smites them; then the hills tremble, and their carcases become like sweepings in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not appeased, and His hand is stretched out still.” We may see from these last words, which are repeated as a refrain in the cycle of prophecies relating to the time of Ahaz (Isa 9:11,16; 10:4), that the prophet had before his mind a distinct and complete judgment upon Judah, belonging to the immediate future. It was certainly a coming judgment, not one already past; for the verbs after “therefore” (‘al-ceen), like those after the three previous lâceen, are all prophetic preterites. It is impossible, therefore, to take the words “and the hills tremble” as referring to the earthquake in the time of Uzziah (Amos 1:1; Zech 14:5). This judgment, which was closer at hand, would consist in the fact that Jehovah would stretch out His hand in His wrath over His people (or, as it is expressed elsewhere, would swing His hand: Luther, “wave His hand,” i.e., move it to and fro; vid., Isa 11:15; 19:16; 30:30,32), and bring it down upon Judah with one stroke, the violence of which would be felt not only by men, but by surrounding nature as well.
What kind of stroke this would be, was to be inferred from the circumstance that the corpses would lie unburied in the streets, like common street-sweepings. The reading xWj must be rejected. Early editors read the word much more correctly xWj ; Buxtorf (1618) even adopts the reading xWj , which has the Masoretic pointing in Num 22:39 in its favour.
It is very natural to connect cassuchâh with the Arabic kusâcha (sweepings; see at Isa 33:12): but kusâcha is the common form for waste or rubbish of this kind (e.g., kulâme, nail-cuttings), whereas cassuach is a form which, like the forms faaool (e.g., châmoots) and fâûl (compare the Arabic fâsûs, a wind-maker, or wind-bag, i.e., a boaster), has always an intensive, active (e.g., channun), or circumstantial signification (like shaccul), but is never found in a passive sense.
The Caph is consequently to be taken as a particle of comparison (followed, as is generally the case, with a definite article); and suuchâh is to be derived from suuach (= verrere, to sweep). The reference, therefore, is not to a pestilence (which is designated, as a stroke from God, not by hiccâh, but by nâgaph), but to the slaughter of battle; and if we look at the other terrible judgment threatened in vv. 26ff., which was to proceed from the imperial power, there can be no doubt that the spirit of prophecy here points to the massacre that took place in Judah in connection with the Syro-Ephraimitish war (see 2 Chron 28:5-6). The mountains may then have trembled with the marching of troops, and the din of arms, and the felling of trees, and the shout of war. At any rate, nature had to participate in what men had brought upon themselves; for, according to the creative appointment of God, nature bears the same relation to man as the body to the soul. Every stroke of divine wrath which falls upon a nation equally affects the land which has grown up, as it were, with it; and in this sense the mountains of Judah trembled at the time referred to, even though the trembling was only discernible by initiated ears. But “for all this” (Beth, = “notwithstanding,” “in spite of,” as in Job 1:22) the wrath of Jehovah, as the prophet foresaw, would not turn away, as it was accustomed to do when He was satisfied; and His hand would still remain stretched out over Judah, ready to strike again. ISAIAH 5:26 Jehovah finds the human instruments of His further strokes, not in Israel and the neighbouring nations, but in the people of distant lands. V. 26. “And lifts up a banner to the distant nations, and hisses to it from the end of the earth; and, behold, it comes with haste swiftly.” What the prophet here foretold began to be fulfilled in the time of Ahaz. But the prophecy, which commences with this verse, has every possible mark of the very opposite of a vaticinium post eventum. It is, strictly speaking, only what had already been threatened in Deut 28:49ff. (cf., Isa 32:21ff.), though here it assumes a more plastic form, and is here presented for the first time to the view of the prophet as though coming out of a mist. Jehovah summons the nations afar off: haggooyim meerâchok signifies, as we have rendered it, the “distant nations,” for meerâchok is virtually an adjective both here and Isa 49:1, just as in Jer 23:23 it is virtually a substantive.
The visible working of Jehovah presents itself to the prophet in two figures. Jehovah plants a banner or standard, which, like an optical telegraph, announces to the nations at a more remote distance than the horn of battle (shophâr) could possibly reach, that they are to gather together to war. A “banner” (nees): i.e., a lofty staff with flying colours (Isa 33:23) planted upon a bare mountain-top (ch. 13:2). ac;n; alternates with µWr in this favourite figure of Isaiah. The nations through whom this was primarily fulfilled were the nations of the Assyrian empire. According to the Old Testament view, these nations were regarded as far off, and dwelling at the end of the earth (Isa 39:3), not only inasmuch as the Euphrates formed the boundary towards the north-east between what was geographically known and unknown to the Israelites (Ps 72:8; Zech 9:10), but also inasmuch as the prophet had in his mind a complex body of nations stretching far away into further Asia. The second figure is taken from a bee-master, who entices the bees, by hissing or whistling, to come out of their hives and settle on the ground.
Thus Virgil says to the bee-master who wants to make the bees settle, “Raise a ringing, and beat the cymbals of Cybele all around” (Georgics, iv. 54). Thus does Jehovah entice the hosts of nations like swarms of bees (Isa 7:18), and they swarm together with haste and swiftness. The plural changes into the singular, because those who are approaching have all the appearance at first of a compact and indivisible mass; it is also possible that the ruling nation among the many is singled out. The thought and expression are both misty, and this is perfectly characteristic. With the word “behold” (hinneeh) the prophet points to them; they are approaching meheerâh kal, i.e., in the shortest time with swift feet, and the nearer they come to his view the more clearly he can describe them.
“There is none exhausted, and none stumbling among them: it gives itself no slumber, and no sleep; and to none is the girdle of his hips loosed; and to none is the lace of his shoes broken.” Notwithstanding the long march, there is no exhausted one, obliged to separate himself and remain behind (Deut 25:18; Isa 14:31); no stumbling one (coosheel), for they march on, pressing incessantly forwards, as if along a well-made road (Jer 31:9).
They do not slumber (nuum), to say nothing of sleeping (yâsheen), so great is their eagerness for battle: i.e., they do not slumber to refresh themselves, and do not even allow themselves their ordinary night’s rest. No one has the girdle of his armour-shirt or coat of mail, in which he stuck his sword (Neh 4:18), at all loosened; nor has a single one even the shoe-string, with which his sandals were fastened, broken (nittak, disrumpitur). The statement as to their want of rest forms a climax descendens; the other, as to the tightness and durability of their equipment, a climax ascendens: the two statements follow one another after the nature of a chiasmus.
The prophet then proceeds to describe their weapons and war-chariots. V. 28. “He whose arrows are sharpened, and all his bows strung; the hoofs of his horses are counted like flint, and his wheels like the whirlwind.” In the prophet’s view they are coming nearer and nearer. For he sees that they have brought the sharpened arrows in their quivers (Isa 22:6); and the fact that all their bows are already trodden (namely, as their length was equal to a man’s height, by treading upon the string with the left foot, as we may learn from Arrian’s Indica), proves that they are near to the goal. The correct reading in Jablonsky (according to Kimchi’s Lex. cf., Michlal yofi) is tv,q, with dagesh dirimens, as in Ps 37:15 (Ges. §20, 2, b). As the custom of shoeing horses was not practised in ancient times, firm hoofs ( oJ>plai karterai> , according to Xenophon’s Hippikos) were one of the most important points in a good horse. And the horses of the enemy that was now drawing near to Judah had hoofs that would be found like flint (tzar, only used here, equivalent to the Arabic zirr). Homer designates such horses chalkopodes, brazen-footed. And the two wheels of the warchariots, to which they were harnessed, turned with such velocity, and overthrew everything before them with such violence, that it seemed not merely as if a whirlwind drove them forward, but as if they were the whirlwind itself (Isa 56:15; Jer. 4:13). Nahum compares them to lightning (Isa 2:5). Thus far the prophet’s description has moved on, as if by forced marches, in clauses of from two to four words each. It now changes into a heavy, stealthy pace, and then in a few clauses springs like a wild beast upon its prey.
“Roaring issues from it as from the lioness: it roars like lions, and utters a low murmur; seizes the prey, carries it off, and no one rescues.” The futures, with the preceding ttæK; hg;a;v] which is equivalent to a future, hold each feature in the description fast, as if for prolonged contemplation.
The lion roars when eager for prey; and such is now the war-cry of the bloodthirsty enemy, which the prophet compares to the roaring of a lion or of young lions (cephirim) in the fulness of their strength. (The lion is described by its poetic name, awOB; this does not exactly apply to the lioness, which would rather be designated by the term hy;bil] .) The roar is succeeded by a low growl (nâham, fremere), when a lion is preparing to fall upon its prey. f36 And so the prophet hears a low and ominous murmur in the army, which is now ready for battle. But he also sees immediately afterwards how the enemy seizes its booty and carries it irrecoverably away: literally, “how he causes it to escape,” i.e., not “lets it slip in cruel sport,” as Luzzatto interprets it, but carries it to a place of safety (Mic 6:14). The prey referred to is Judah. It also adds to the gloomy and mysterious character of the prophecy, that the prophet never mentions Judah. In the following verse also (v. 30) the object is still suppressed, as if the prophet could not let it pass his lips.
“And it utters a deep roar over it in that day like the roaring of the sea: and it looks to the earth, and behold darkness, tribulation, and light; it becomes night over it in the clouds of heaven.” The subject to “roars” is the mass of the enemy; and in the expressions “over it” and “it looks” (nibbat; the niphal, which is only met with here, in the place of the hiphil) the prophet has in his mind the nation of Judah, upon which the enemy falls with the roar of the ocean-that is to say, overwhelming it like a sea. And when the people of Judah look to the earth, i.e., to their own land, darkness alone presents itself, and darkness which has swallowed up all the smiling and joyous aspect which it had before. And what then? The following words, tzar vâ’oor, have been variously rendered, viz., “moon (= sahar) and sun” by the Jewish expositors, “stone and flash,” i.e., hail and thunder-storm, by Drechsler; but such renderings as these, and others of a similar kind, are too far removed from the ordinary usage of the language.
And the separation of the two words, so that the one closes a sentence and the other commences a fresh one (e.g., “darkness of tribulation, and the sun becomes dark”), which is adopted by Hitzig, Gesenius, Ewald, and others, is opposed to the impression made by the two monosyllables, and sustained by the pointing, that they are connected together. The simplest explanation is one which takes the word tzar in its ordinary sense of tribulation or oppression, and ‘oor in its ordinary sense of light, and which connects the two words closely together. And this is the case with the rendering given above: tzar vâ’oor are “tribulation and brightening up,” one following the other and passing over into the other, like morning and night (Isa 21:12). This pair of words forms an interjectional clause, the meaning of which is, that when the predicted darkness had settled upon the land of Judah, this would not be the end; but there would still follow an alternation of anxiety and glimmerings of hope, until at last it had become altogether dark in the cloudy sky over all the land of Judah (‘ariphim, the cloudy sky, is only met with here; it is derived from ‘âraph, to drop or trickle, hence also ‘arâphel: the suffix points back to lâ’âretz, eretz denoting sometimes the earth as a whole, and at other times the land as being part of the earth).
The prophet here predicts that, before utter ruin has overtaken Judah, sundry approaches will be made towards this, within which a divine deliverance will appear again and again. Grace tries and tries again and again, until at last the measure of iniquity is full, and the time of repentance past. The history of the nation of Judah proceeded according to this law until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The Assyrian troubles, and the miraculous light of divine help which arose in the destruction of the military power of Sennacherib, were only the foreground of this mournful but yet ever and anon hopeful course of history, which terminated in utter darkness, that has continued now for nearly two thousand years.
This closes the third prophetic address. It commences with a parable which contains the history of Israel in nuce, and closes with an emblem which symbolizes the gradual but yet certain accomplishment of the judicial, penal termination of the parable. This third address, therefore, is as complete in itself as the second was. The kindred allusions are to be accounted for from the sameness of the historical basis and arena. During the course of the exposition, it has become more and more evident and certain that it relates to the time of Uzziah and Jotham-a time of peace, of strength, and wealth, but also of pride and luxury. The terrible slaughter of the Syro- Ephraimitish war, which broke out at the end of Jotham’s reign, and the varied complications which king Ahaz introduced between Judah and the imperial worldly power, and which issued eventually in the destruction of the former kingdom-those five marked epochs in the history of the kingdoms of the world, or great empires, to which the Syro-Ephraimitish war was the prelude-were still hidden from the prophet in the womb of the future.
The description of the great mass of people that was about to roll over Judah from afar is couched in such general terms, so undefined and misty, that all we can say is, that everything that was to happen to the people of God on the part of the imperial power during the five great and extended periods of judgment that were now so soon to commence (viz., the Assyrian, the Chaldean, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman), was here unfolding itself out of the mist of futurity, and presenting itself to the prophet’s eye. Even in the time of Ahaz the character of the prophecy changed in this respect. It was then that the eventful relation, in which Israel stood to the imperial power, generally assumed its first concrete shape in the form of a distinct relation to Asshur (Assyria). And from that time forth the imperial power in the mouth of the prophet is no longer a majestic thing without a name; but although the notion of the imperial power was not yet embodied in Asshur, it was called Asshur, and Asshur stood as its representative.
It also necessarily follows from this, that ch. 2-4 and 5 belong to the times anterior to Ahaz, i.e., to those of Uzziah and Jotham. But several different questions suggest themselves here. If ch. 2-4 and 5 were uttered under Uzziah and Jotham, how could Isaiah begin with a promise (Isa 2:1-4) which is repeated word for word in Mic 4:1ff., where it is the direct antithesis to Isa 3:12, which was uttered by Micha, according to Jer 26:18, in the time of Hezekiah? Again, if we consider the advance apparent in the predictions of judgment from the general expressions with which they commence in ch. 1 to the close of ch. 5, in what relation does the address in ch. 1 stand to ch. 2-4 and 5, inasmuch as vv. 7-9 are not ideal (as we felt obliged to maintain, in opposition to Caspari), but have a distinct historical reference, and therefore at any rate presuppose the Syro-Ephraimitish war?
And lastly, if ch. 6 does really relate, as it apparently does, to the call of Isaiah to the prophetic office, how are we to explain the singular fact, that three prophetic addresses precede the history of his call, which ought properly to stand at the commencement of the book?
Drechsler and Caspari have answered this question lately, by maintaining that ch. 6 does not contain an account of the call of Isaiah to the prophetic office, but simply of the call of the prophet, who was already installed in that office, to one particular mission. The proper heading to be adopted for ch. 6 would therefore be, “The ordination of the prophet as the preacher of the judgment of hardening;” and ch. 1-5 would contain warning reproofs addressed by the prophet to the people, who were fast ripening for this judgment of hardening (reprobation), for the purpose of calling them to repentance. The final decision was still trembling in the balance. But the call to repentance was fruitless, and Israel hardened itself. And now that the goodness of God had tried in vain to lead the people to repentance, and the long-suffering of God had been wantonly abused by the people, Jehovah Himself would harden them.
Looked at in this light, ch. 6 stands in its true historical place. It contains the divine sequel to that portion of Isaiah’s preaching, and of the prophetic preaching generally, by which it had been preceded. But true as it is that the whole of the central portion of Israel’s history, which lay midway between the commencement and the close, was divided in half by the contents of ch. 6, and that the distinctive importance of Isaiah as a prophet arose especially from the fact that he stood upon the boundary between these two historic halves; there are serious objections which present themselves to such an explanation of ch. 6. It is possible, indeed, that this distinctive importance may have been given to Isaiah’s official position at his very first call. And what Umbreit says-namely, that ch. 6 must make the impression upon every unprejudiced mind, that it relates to the prophet’s inaugural vision-cannot really be denied. but the position in which ch. 6 stands in the book itself must necessarily produce a contrary impression, unless it can be accounted for in some other way. Nevertheless the impression still remains (just as at Isa 1:7-9), and recurs again and again.
We will therefore proceed to ch. 6 without attempting to efface it. It is possible that we may discover some other satisfactory explanation of the enigmatical position of ch. 6 in relation to what precedes.
THE PROPHET’S ACCOUNT OF HIS OWN DIVINE MISSION ISAIAH 6:1 The time of the occurrence here described, viz., “the year that king Uzziah (Uzîyahu) died,” was of importance to the prophet. The statement itself, in the naked form in which it is here introduced, is much more emphatic than if it commenced with “it came to pass” (vay’hi; cf., Ex 16:6; Prov 24:17).
It was the year of Uzziah’s death, not the first year of Jotham’s reign; that is to say, Uzziah was still reigning, although his death was near at hand. If this is the sense in which the words are to be understood, then, even if the chapter before us contains an account of Isaiah’s first call, the heading to ch. 1, which dates the ministry of the prophet from the time of Uzziah, is quite correct, inasmuch as, although his public ministry under Uzziah was very short, this is properly to be included, not only on account of its own importance, but as inaugurating a new ear (lit. “an epoch-making beginning”).
But is it not stated in 2 Chron 26:22, that Isaiah wrote a historical work embracing the whole of Uzziah’s reign? Unquestionably; but it by no means follows from this, that he commenced his ministry long before the death of Uzziah. If Isaiah received his call in the year that Uzziah died, this historical work contained a retrospective view of the life and times of Uzziah, the close of which coincided with the call of the prophetic author, which made a deep incision into the history of Israel. Uzziah reigned fiftytwo years (809-758 B.C.). This lengthened period was just the same to the kingdom of Judah as the shorter age of Solomon to that of all Israel, viz., a time of vigorous and prosperous peace, in which the nation was completely overwhelmed with manifestations of divine love. But the riches of divine goodness had no more influence upon it, than the troubles through which it had passed before. And now the eventful change took place in the relation between Israel and Jehovah, of which Isaiah was chosen to be the instrument before and above all other prophets. The year in which all this occurred was the year of Uzziah’s death. It was in this year that Israel as a people was given up to hardness of heart, and as a kingdom and country to devastation and annihilation by the imperial power of the world. How significant a fact, as Jerome observes in connection with this passage, that the year of Uzziah’s death should be the year in which Romulus was born; and that it was only a short time after the death of Uzziah (viz., 754 B.C. according to Varro’s chronology) that Rome itself was founded! The national glory of Israel died out with king Uzziah, and has never revived to this day.
In that year, says the prophet, “I saw the Lord of all sitting upon a high and exalted throne, and His borders filling the temple.” Isaiah saw, and that not when asleep and dreaming; but God gave him, when awake, an insight into the invisible world, by opening an inner sense for the supersensuous, whilst the action of the outer senses was suspended, and by condensing the supersensuous into a sensuous form, on account of the composite nature of man and the limits of his present state. This was the mode of revelation peculiar to an ecstatic vision ( en eksta>sei , Eng. ver. “in a trance,” or en pneu>mati , “in the spirit”). Isaiah is here carried up into heaven; for although in other instances it was undoubtedly the earthly temple which was presented to a prophet’s view in an ecstatic vision (Amos 9:1; Ezek 8:3; 10:4-5; cf., Acts 22:17), yet here, as the description which follows clearly proves, the “high and exalted throne” is the heavenly antitype of the earthly throne which was formed by the ark of the covenant; and the “temple” (heecâl: lit., a spacious hall, the name given to the temple as the palace of God the King) is the temple in heaven, as in Ps 11:4; 18:7; 29:9, and many other passages.
There the prophet sees the Sovereign Ruler, or, as we prefer to render the noun, which is formed from ‘âdan = duun, “the Lord of all” (All-herrn, sovereign or absolute Lord), seated upon the throne, and in human form (Ezek 1:26), as is proved by the robe with a train, whose flowing ends or borders (fimbriae: shuulim, as in Ex 28:33-34) filled the hall. The Sept., Targum, Vulgate, etc., have dropped the figure of the robe and train, as too anthropomorphic. But John, in his Gospel, is bold enough to say that it was Jesus whose glory Isaiah saw (John 12:41). And truly so, for the incarnation of God is the truth embodied in all the scriptural anthropomorphisms, and the name of Jesus is the manifested mystery of the name Jehovah. The heavenly temple is that super-terrestrial place, which Jehovah transforms into heaven and a temple, by manifesting Himself there to angels and saints. But whilst He manifests His glory there, He is obliged also to veil it, because created beings are unable to bear it. But that which veils His glory is no less splendid, than that portion of it which is revealed.
And this was the truth embodied for Isaiah in the long robe and train. He saw the Lord, and what more he saw was the all-filling robe of the indescribable One. As far as the eye of the seer could look at first, the ground was covered by this splendid robe. There was consequently no room for any one to stand. And the vision of the seraphim is in accordance with this.
“Above it stood seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly.” We must not render ttæK; l[æmæ “near him;” for although `l[æ or `l[æ is applied to a person standing near or over against another who is sitting down (Ex 18:13; Jer 36:21; compared 2 Chron 26:19, where the latter is used to signify “over against” the altar of incense), and is used in this sense to denote the attitude of spirits (Job 1:16; 1 Kings 22:19; Zech 6:5), and even of men (Zech 4:14), in relation to God when seated on His throne, in which case it cannot possibly be employed in the sense of “towering above;” yet ttæK; l[æmæ , the strongest expression for supra, cannot be employed in any other than a literal sense here; for which reason Rashi and the Targums understand it as signifying “above in the attitude of service,” and the accentuation apparently, though erroneously, implies this (Luzzatto).
What Isaiah meant by this standing above, may be inferred from the use which the seraphim are said to have made of their wings. The imperfects do not describe what they were accustomed to do (Böttcher and others), but what the seer saw them do: with two of their six wings he saw them fly. Thus they stood flying, i.e., they hovered or soared (cf., Num 14:14), as both the earth and stars are said to stand, although suspended in space (Job 26:7). The seraphim would not indeed tower above the head of Him that sat upon the throne, but they hovered above the robe belonging to Him with which the hall was filled, sustained by two extended wings, and covering their faces with two other wings in their awe at the divine glory (Targ. ne videant), and their feet with two others, in their consciousness of the depth at which the creature stands below the Holiest of all (Targ. ne videantur), just as the cherubim are described as veiling their bodies in Ezek 1:11.
This is the only passage in the Scriptures in which the seraphim are mentioned. According to the orthodox view, which originated with Dionysius the Areopagite, they stand at the head of the nine choirs of angels, the first rank consisting of seraphim, cherubim, and throni. And this is not without support, if we compare the cherubim mentioned in Ezekiel, which carried the chariot of the divine throne; whereas here the seraphim are said to surround the seat on which the Lord was enthroned. In any case, the seraphim and cherubim were heavenly beings of different kinds; and there is no weight in the attempts made by Hendewerk and Stickel to prove that they are one and the same. And certainly the name serpahim does not signify merely spirits as such, but even, if not the highest of all, yet a distinct order from the rest; for the Scriptures really teach that there are gradations in rank in the hierarchy of heaven. Nor were they mere symbols or fanciful images, as Hävernick imagines, but real spiritual beings, who visibly appeared to the prophet, and that in a form corresponding to their own supersensuous being, and to the design of the whole transaction.
Whilst these seraphim hovered above on both sides of Him that sat upon the throne, and therefore formed two opposite choirs, each ranged in a semicircle, they presented antiphonal worship to Him that sat upon the throne.
“And one cried to the other, and said, Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts: filling the whole earth is His glory.” The meaning is not that they all lifted up their voice in concert at one and the same time (just as in Ps 42:8 el is not used in this sense, viz., as equivalent to c’neged), but that there was a continuous and unbroken antiphonal song. One set commenced, and the others responded, either repeating the “Holy, holy, holy,” or following with “filling the whole earth is His glory.” Isaiah heard this antiphonal or “hypophonal” song of the seraphim, not merely that he might know that the uninterrupted worship of God was their blessed employment, but because it was with this doxology as with the doxologies of the Apocalypse, it had a certain historical significance in common with the whole scene. God is in Himself the Holy One (kâdoosh), i.e., the separate One, beyond or above the world, true light, spotless purity, the perfect One. His glory (câbod) is His manifested holiness, as Oetinger and Bengel express it, just as, on the other hand, His holiness is His veiled or hidden glory.
The design of all the work of God is that His holiness should become universally manifest, or, what is the same thing, that His glory should become the fulness of the whole earth (Isa 11:9; Num 14:21; Hab 2:14).
This design of the work of God stands before God as eternally present; and the seraphim also have it ever before them in its ultimate completion, as the theme of their song of praise. But Isaiah was a man living in the very midst of the history that was moving on towards this goal; and the cry of the seraphim, in the precise form in which it reached him, showed him to what it would eventually come on earth, whilst the heavenly shapes that were made visible to him helped him to understand the nature of that divine glory with which the earth was to be filled. The whole of the book of Isaiah contains traces of the impression made by this ecstatic vision. The favourite name of God in the mouth of the prophet viz., “the Holy One of Israel” (kedosh Yisrael), is the echo of this seraphic sanctus; and the fact that this name already occurs with such marked preference on the part of the prophet in the addresses contained in Isa 1:2-4:5, supports the view that Isaiah is here describing his own first call.
All the prophecies of Isaiah carry this name of God as their stamp. It occurs twenty-nine times (including Isa 10:17; 43:15; 49:7), viz., twelve times in ch. 1-39, and seventeen times in ch. 40-66. As Luzzatto has well observed, “the prophet, as if with a presentiment that the authenticity of the second part of his book would be disputed, has stamped both parts with this name of God, ‘the Holy One of Israel,’ as if with his own seal.”
The only other passages in which the word occurs, are three times in the Psalms (Ps 71:22; 78:41; 89:19), and twice in Jeremiah (Jer 50:29; 51:5), and that not without an allusion to Isaiah. It forms an essential part of Isaiah’s distinctive prophetic signature. And here we are standing at the source from which it sprang. But did this thrice-holy refer to the triune God? Knobel contents himself with saying that the threefold repetition of the word “holy” serves to give it the greater emphasis.
No doubt men are accustomed to say three times what they wish to say in an exhaustive and satisfying manner; for three is the number of expanded unity, of satisfied and satisfying development, of the key-note extended into the chord. But why is this? The Pythagoreans said that numbers were the first principle of all things; but the Scriptures, according to which God created the world in twice three days by ten mighty words, and completed it in seven days, teach us that God is the first principle of all numbers. The fact that three is the number of developed and yet self-contained unity, has its ultimate ground in the circumstance that it is the number of the trinitarian process; and consequently the trilogy (trisagion) of the seraphim (like that of the cherubim in Rev 4:8), whether Isaiah was aware of it or no, really pointed in the distinct consciousness of the spirits themselves to the truine God.
When Isaiah heard this, he stood entranced at the farthest possible distance from Him that sat upon the throne, namely, under the door of the heavenly palace or temple. What he still further felt and saw, he proceeds to relate in v. 4: “And the foundations of the thresholds shook with the voice of them that cried; and the house became full of smoke.” By ‘ammoth hassippim, the LXX, Vulgate, Syriac, and others understand the posts of the lintels, the supporting beams of the superliminaria, which closed the doorway at the top. But as saph is only used in other places to signify the threshold and porch (limen and vestibulum), ‘ammoth hassippim must be understood here in the (perfectly appropriate) sense of “the foundations of the thresholds” (‘ammâh, which bears the same relation to µae , mother, as matrix to mater, is used to denote the receptive basis into which the door-steps with their plugs were inserted, like the talmudic ammetâh dereechayyâh, the frame or box of the hand-mill (Berachoth 18b), and ammath megeerah, the woodwork which runs along the back of the saw and keeps it firmly extended (Kelim 21, 3); compare the “Schraubenmutter,” literally screw-mother, or female screw, which receives and holds the cylindrical screw).
Every time that the choir of seraphim ar;q; : compare such collective singulars as hâ’oreb, the ambush, in Josh 8:19; hechâlutz, of men of war, in Josh 6:7, etc.) began their song, the support of the threshold of the porch in which Isaiah was standing trembled. The building was seized with reverential awe throughout its whole extent, and in its deepest foundations: for in the blessed state beyond, nothing stands immoveable or unsusceptible in relation to the spirits there; but all things form, as it were, the accidentia of their free personality, yielding to their impressions, and voluntarily following them in all their emotions. The house was also “filled with smoke.” Many compare this with the similar occurrence in connection with the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:10); but Drechsler is correct in stating that the two cases are not parallel, for there God simply attested His own presence by the cloud of smoke behind which He concealed Himself, whereas here there was no need of any such selfattestation.
Moreover, in this instance God does not dwell in the cloud and thick darkness, whilst the smoke is represented as the effect of the songs of praise in which the seraphim have joined, and not of the presence of God.
The smoke arose from the altar of incense mentioned in v. 6. But when Drechsler says that it was the prayers of saints (as in Rev 5:8; 8:3-4), which ascended to the Lord in the smoke, this is a thought which is quite out of place here. The smoke was the immediate consequence of the seraphs’ song of praise.
This begins to throw a light upon the name seraphim, which may help us to decipher it. The name cannot possibly be connected with sârâph, a snake (Sanscr. sarpa, Lat. serpens); and to trace the word to a verb sâraph in the sense of the Arabic ‘sarafa (‘sarufa), to tower high, to be exalted, or highly honoured (as Gesenius, Hengstenberg, Hofmann, and others have done), yields a sense which does not very strongly commend itself. On the other hand, to follow Knobel, who reads shârâthim (worshippers of God), and thus presents the Lexicon with a new word, and to pronounce the word serpahim a copyist’s error, would be a rash concession to the heavenstorming omnipotence which is supposed to reside in the ink of a German scholar. It is hardly admissible, however, to interpret the name as signifying directly spirits of light or fire, since the true meaning of sâraph is not urere (to burn), but comburere (to set on fire or burn up). Umbreit endeavours to do justice to this transitive meaning by adopting the explanation “fiery beings,” by which all earthly corruption is opposed and destroyed. The vision itself, however, appears to point to a much more distinctive and special meaning in the name, which only occurs in this passage of Isaiah.
We shall have more to say upon this point presently.
The seer, who was at first overwhelmed and intoxicated by the majestic sight, now recovers his self-consciousness. V. 5. “Then said I, Woe to me! for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I am dwelling among a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts.” That a man cannot see God without dying is true in itself, and was an Old Testament conviction throughout (Ex 33:20, etc.). He must die, because the holiness of God is to the sinner a consuming fire (Isa 33:14); and the infinite distance between the creature and the Creator is sufficient of itself to produce a prostrating effect, which even the seraphim could not resist without veiling their faces. Isaiah therefore regarded himself as lost (nidmeethi, like o’loola, perii, a preterite denoting the fact which, although not outwardly completed, is yet effected so far as a man’s own consciousness is concerned), and all the more because he himself was of unclean lips, and he was also a member of a nation of unclean lips.
The unholiness of his own person was doubled, in consequence of the closeness of the natural connection, by the unholiness of the nation to which he belonged. He designates this unholiness as uncleanness of lips, because he found himself transported into the midst of choirs of beings who were praising the Lord with pure lips; and he calls the King Jehovah, because, although he had not seen Jehovah face to face, he had seen the throne, and the all-filling robe, and the seraphim who surrounded and did homage to Him that sat upon the throne; and therefore, as he had seen the heavenly King in His revealed majesty, he describes the scene according to the impression that he had received. But to stand here in front of Jehovah of hosts, the exalted King, to whom everything does homage, and to be obliged to remain mute in the consciousness of deep uncleanness, excited within him the annihilating anguish of self-condemnation. And this is expressed in the confession made by the contrite seer.
This confession was followed by the forgiveness of his sins, of which he received an attestation through a heavenly sacrament, and which was conveyed to him through the medium of a seraphic absolution. Vv. 6, 7. “And one of the seraphim flew to me with a red-hot coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said, Behold, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away; and so thy sin is expiated.” One of the beings hovering round the Lord (there were, therefore, a large and indefinite number) flew to the altar of incense-the heavenly original of the altar of incense in the earthly temple, which was reckoned as belonging to the Most Holy Place-and took from this altar a ritzpâh, i.e., either a red-hot stone (Vulg. calculum, Ar. radfe or radafe), or, according to the prevailing tradition, a red-hot coal (vid., râtzeeph - râshaph, to scatter sparks, sparkle, or glow: syn. gacheleth), and that with a pair of tongs, because even a seraph’s hand cannot touch the vessels consecrated to God, or the sacrifices that belong to Him. With this red-hot coal he flew to Isaiah, and having touched his mouth with it, i.e., that member of his body of whose uncleanness he had more especially complained (cf., Jer 1:9, where the prophet’s mouth is touched by Jehovah’s hand, and made eloquent in consequence), he assured him of the forgiveness of his sins, which coincided with the application of this sacramental sign.
The Vav connects together what is affirmed by nâga’ (hath touched) and sâr (a taker away) as being simultaneous; the zeh (this) points as a neuter to the red-hot coal. The future tecuppâr is a future consec., separated by Vav conversive for the purpose of bringing the subject into greater prominence; as it is practically impossible that the removal of guilt should be thought of as immediate and momentary, and the expiation as occurring gradually. The fact that the guilt was taken away was the very proof that the expiation was complete. Cipper, with the “sin” in the accusative, or governed by `l[æ , signifies to cover it up, extinguish, or destroy it (for the primary meaning, vid., Isa 28:18), so that it has no existence in relation to the penal justice of God. All sinful uncleanness was burned away from the prophet’s mouth. The seraph, therefore, did here what his name denotes: he burned up or burned away (comburit).
He did this, however, not by virtue of his own fiery nature, but by means of the divine fire which he had taken from the heavenly altar. As the smoke which filled the house came from the altar, and arose in consequence of the adoration offered to the Lord by the seraphim, not only must the incenseoffering upon the altar and this adoration be closely connected; but the fire, which revealed itself in the smoke and consumed the incense-offering, and which must necessarily have been divine because of its expiatory power, was an effect of the love of God with which He reciprocated the offerings of the seraphim. A fiery look from God, and that a fiery look of pure love as the seraphim were sinless, had kindled the sacrifice. Now, if the fact that a seraph absolved the seer by means of this fire of love is to be taken as an illustrative example of the historical calling of the seraphim, they were the vehicles and media of the fire of divine love, just as the cherubim in Ezekiel are vehicles and media of the fire of divine wrath. For just as, in the case before us, a seraph takes the fire of love from the altar; so there, in Ezek 10:6-7, a cherub takes the fire of wrath from the throne-chariot. Consequently the cherubim appear as the vehicles and media of the wrath which destroys sinners, or rather of the divine doxa, with its fiery side turned towards the world; and the seraphim as the vehicles and media of the love which destroys sin, or of the same divine doxa with its light side towards the world. f38 ISAIAH 6:8 When Isaiah had been thus absolved, the true object of the heavenly scene was made apparent. V. 8. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Behold me here; send me!” The plural “for us” (lânu) is not to be accounted for on the ground that, in a case of reflection or self-consultation, the subject also stands as the object in antithesis to itself (as Hitzig supposes); nor is it a pluralis majestatis, as Knobel maintains; nor is the original abstract signification of the plural hinted at, as Meier thinks. The plural is no doubt used here with reference to the seraphim, who formed, together with the Lord, one deliberative council (sood kedoshim, Ps 89:8), as in 1 Kings 22:19-22; Dan 4:14, etc.; just as, from their very nature as “sons of God” (b’nee Hâ-elohim), they made one family with God their Creator (vid., Eph 3:15), all linked so closely together that they themselves could be called Elohim, like God their Creator, just as in 1 Cor 12:12 the church of believers is called Christos, like Christ its head.
The task for which the right man was sought was not merely divine, but heavenly in the broadest sense: for it is not only a matter in which God Himself is interested, that the earth should become full of the glory of God, but this is also an object of solicitude to the spirits that minister unto Him.
Isaiah, whose anxiety to serve the Lord was no longer suppressed by the consciousness of his own sinfulness, no sooner heard the voice of the Lord, than he exclaimed, in holy self-consciousness, “Behold me here; send me.”
It is by no means a probable thing, that he had already acted as a messenger of God, or held the office of prophet. For if the joy, with which he offered himself here as the messenger of God, was the direct consequence of the forgiveness of sins, of which he had received the seal; the consciousness of his own personal sinfulness, and his membership in a sinful nation, would certainly have prevented him thereto from coming forward to denounce judgment upon that nation. And as the prophetic office as such rested upon an extraordinary call from God, it may fairly be assumed, that when Isaiah relates so extraordinary a call as this, he is describing the sealing of his prophetic office, and therefore his own first call.
This is confirmed by the words in which his commission is expressed, and the substance of the message.-Vv. 9, 10. “He said, Go, and tell this people, Hear on, and understand not; and look on, but perceive not. Make ye the heart of this people greasy, and their ears heavy, and their eyes sticky; that they may not see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and their heart understand, and they be converted, and one heal them.” “This people” points back to the people of unclean lips, among whom Isaiah had complained of dwelling, and whom the Lord would not call “my people.” It was to go to this people and preach to them, and therefore to be the prophet of this people, that he was called. But how mournful does the divine commission sound! It was the terrible opposite of that seraphic mission, which the prophet had experienced in himself. The seraph had absolved Isaiah by the burning coal, that he as prophet might not absolve, but harden his people by his word.
They were to hear and see, and that continually as the gerundives imply (Ges. §131, 3, b; Ewald, §280, b), by having the prophet’s preaching actu directo constantly before them; but not to their salvation. The two prohibitory expressions, “understand not” and “perceive not,” show what the result of the prophet’s preaching was to be, according to the judicial will of God. And the imperatives in v. 10 are not to be understood as simply instructing the prophet to tell the people what God had determined to do; for the fact that “prophets are often said to do what they announce as about to happen,” in proof of which Jer 1:10 is sometimes quoted (cf., Jer 31:28; Hos 6:5; Ezek 43:3), has its truth not in a rhetorical figure, but in the very nature of the divine word. The prophet was the organ of the word of God, and the word of God was the expression of the will of God, and the will of God is a divine act that has not yet become historical.
For this reason a prophet might very well be said to perform what he announced as about to happen: God was the causa efficiens principalis, the word was the causa media, and the prophet the causa ministerialis. This is the force of the three imperatives; they are three figurative expressions of the idea of hardening. The first, hishmin, signifies to make fat (pinguem), i.e., without susceptibility or feeling for the operations of divine grace (Ps 119:70); the second, hicbiid, to make heavy, more especially heavy or dull of hearing (Isa 59:1); the third, [ævehe or [væhe (whence the imperative [æveh; or h[;v; ), to smear thickly, or paste over, i.e., to put upon a person what is usually the result of weak eyes, which become firmly closed by the hardening of the adhesive substance secreted in the night. The three future clauses, with “lest” (pen), point back to these three imperatives in inverse order: their spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, and spiritual feeling were to be taken away, their eyes becoming blind, and their ears deaf, and their hearts being covered over with the grease of insensibility.
Under the influence of these futures the two preterites ttK; ap;r; bWv affirm what might have been the result if this hardening had not taken place, but what would never take place now. The expression l] ap;r; is used in every other instance in a transitive sense, “to heal a person or a disease,” and never in the sense of becoming well or being healed; but in the present instance it acquires a passive sense from the so-called impersonal construction (Ges. §137, 3), “and one heal it,” i.e., “and it be healed:” and it is in accordance with this sense that it is paraphrased in Mark 4:12, whereas in the three other passages in which the words are quoted in the New Testament (viz., Matthew, John, and Acts) the Septuagint rendering is adopted, “and I should heal them” (God Himself being taken as the subject). The commission which the prophet received, reads as though it were quite irreconcilable with the fact that God, as the Good, can only will what is good.
But our earlier doctrinarians have suggested the true solution, when they affirm that God does not harden men positive aut effective, since His true will and direct work are man’s salvation, but occasionaliter et eventualiter, since the offers and displays of salvation which man receives necessarily serve to fill up the measure of his sins, and judicialiter so far as it is the judicial will of God, that what was originally ordained for men’s salvation should result after all in judgment, in the case of any man upon whom grace has ceased to work, because all its ways and means have been completely exhausted. It is not only the loving will of God which is good, but also the wrathful will into which His loving will changes, when determinately and obstinately resisted. There is a self-hardening in evil, which renders a man thoroughly incorrigible, and which, regarded as the fruit of his moral behaviour, is no less a judicial punishment inflicted by God, than self-induced guilt on the part of man. The two are bound up in one another, inasmuch as sin from its very nature bears its own punishment, which consists in the wrath of God excited by sin. For just as in all the good that men do, the active principle is the love of God; so in all the harm that they do, the active principle is the wrath of God. An evil act in itself is the result of self-determination proceeding from a man’s own will; but evil, regarded as the mischief in which evil acting quickly issues, is the result of the inherent wrath of God, which is the obverse of His inherent love; and when a man hardens himself in evil, it is the inward working of God’s peremptory wrath. To this wrath Israel had delivered itself up through its continued obstinacy in sinning. And consequently the Lord now proceeded to shut the door of repentance against His people. Nevertheless He directed the prophet to preach repentance, because the judgment of hardness suspended over the people as a whole did not preclude the possibility of the salvation of individuals.
Isaiah heard with sighing, and yet with obedience, in what the mission to which he had so cheerfully offered himself was to consist. V. 11a. “Then said I, Lord, how long?” He inquired how long this service of hardening and this state of hardness were to continue-a question forced from him by his sympathy with the nation to which he himself belonged (cf., Ex 32:9- 14), and one which was warranted by the certainty that God, who is ever true to His promises, could not cast off Israel as a people for ever. The answer follows in vv. 11b-13: “Until towns are wasted without inhabitant, and houses are without man, and the ground shall be laid waste, a wilderness, and Jehovah shall put men far away, and there shall be many forsaken places within the land. And is there still a tenth therein, this also again is given up to destruction, like the terebinth and like the oak, of which, when they are felled, only a root-stump remains: such a root-stump is a holy seed.” The answer is intentionally commenced, not with `ad-kiy, but with µai rv,a `d[æ (the expression only occurs again in Gen 28:15 and Num 32:17), which, even without dropping the conditional force of µai , signified that the hardening judgment would only come to an end when the condition had been fulfilled, that towns, houses, and the soil of the land of Israel and its environs had been made desolate, in fact, utterly and universally desolate, as the three definitions (without inhabitant, without man, wilderness) affirm. The expression richak (put far away) is a general and enigmatical description of exile or captivity (cf., Joe. 4:6, Jer. 27:10); the literal term gâlâh has been already used in Isa 5:13. Instead of a national term being used, we find here simply the general expression “men” (eth-hâ’âdâm; the consequence of depopulation, viz., the entire absence of men, being expressed in connection with the depopulation itself. The participial noun hâ azubâh (the forsaken) is a collective term for places once full of life, that had afterwards died out and fallen into ruins (Isa 17:2,9). This judgment would be followed by a second, which would expose the still remaining tenth of the nation to a sifting. hy;h; bWv , to become again (Ges. §142, 3); r[æB; hy;h; , not as in Isa 5:5, but as in Isa 4:4, after Num 24:22: the feminine does not refer to the land of Israel (Luzzatto), but to the tenth.
Up to the words “given up to destruction,” the announcement is a threatening one; but from this point to “remains” a consolatory prospect begins to dawn; and in the last three words this brighter prospect, like a distant streak of light, bounds the horizon of the gloomy prophecy.
It shall happen as with the terebinth and oak. These trees were selected as illustrations, not only because they were so near akin to evergreens, and produced a similar impression, or because there were so many associations connected with them in the olden times of Israel’s history; but also because they formed such fitting symbols of Israel, on account of their peculiar facility for springing up again from the root (like the beech and nut, for example), even when they had been completely felled. As the forms yabbesheth (dryness), dalleketh (fever), ‘avvereth (blindness), shachepheth (consumption), are used to denote certain qualities or states, and those for the most part faulty ones (Concord. p. 1350); so shalleceth here does not refer to the act itself of felling or casting away, but rather to the condition of a tree that has been hewn or thrown down; though not to the condition of the trunk as it lies prostrate upon the ground, but to that of the root, which is still left in the earth.
Of this tree, that had been deprived of its trunk and crown, there was still a mazzebeth kindred form of mazzebâh), i.e., a root-stump (truncus) fast in the ground. The tree was not yet entirely destroyed; the root-stump could shoot out and put forth branches again. And this would take place: the root-stump of the oak or terebinth, which was a symbol of Israel, was “a holy seed.” The root-stump was the remnant that had survived the judgment, and this remnant would become a seed, out of which a new Israel would spring up after the old had been destroyed. Thus in a few weighty words is the way sketched out, which God would henceforth take with His people. The passage contains an outline of the history of Israel to the end of time. Israel as a nation was indestructible, by virtue of the promise of God; but the mass of the people were doomed to destruction through the judicial sentence of God, and only a remnant, which would be converted, would perpetuate the nationality of Israel, and inherit the glorious future. This law of a blessing sunk in the depths of the curse actually inflicted, still prevails in the history of the Jews. The way of salvation is open to all. Individuals find it, and give us a presentiment of what might be and is to be; but the great mass are hopelessly lost, and only when they have been swept away will a holy seed, saved by the covenantkeeping God, grow up into a new and holy Israel, which, according to Isa 27:6, will fill the earth with its fruits, or, as the apostle expresses it in Rom 11:12, become “the riches of the Gentiles.”
Now, if the impression which we have received from ch. 6 is not a false one-namely, that the prophet is here relating his first call to the prophetic office, and not, as Seb. Schmidt observes, his call to one particular duty (ad unum specialem actum officii)-this impression may be easily verified, inasmuch as the addresses in ch. 1-5 will be sure to contain the elements which are here handed to the prophet by revelation, and the result of these addresses will correspond to the sentence judicially pronounced here. And the conclusion to which we have come will stand this test. For the prophet, in the very first address, after pointing out to the nation as a whole the gracious pathway of justification and sanctification, takes the turn indicated in Isa 6:11-13, in full consciousness that all is in vain. And the theme of the second address is, that it will be only after the overthrow of the false glory of Israel that the true glory promised can possibly be realized, and that after the destruction of the great body of the people only a small remnant will live to see this realization.
The parable with which the third begins, rests upon the supposition that the measure of the nation’s iniquity is full; and the threatening of judgment introduced by this parable agrees substantially, and in part verbally, with the divine answer received by the prophet to his question “How long?” On every side, therefore, the opinion is confirmed, that in c. 6 Isaiah describes his own consecration to the prophetic office. The addresses in ch. 2-4 and 5, which belong to the time of Uzziah and Jotham, do not fall earlier than the year of Uzziah’s death, from which point the whole of Jotham’s sixteen years’ reign lay open before them. Now, as Micah commenced his ministry in Jotham’s reign, though his book was written in the form of a complete and chronologically indivisible summary, by the working up of the prophecies which he delivered under Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, and was then read or published in the time of Hezekiah, as we may infer from Jer 26:18, it is quite possible that Isaiah may have taken from Micah’s own lips (though not from Micah’s book) the words of promise in Isa 2:1-4, which he certainly borrowed from some quarter. The notion that this word of promise originated with a third prophet (who must have been Joel, if he were one of the prophets known to us), is rendered very improbable by the many marks of Micah’s prophetic peculiarities, and by its natural position in the context in which it there occurs (vid., Caspari, Micha, pp. 444-5).
Again, the situation of ch. 6 is not inexplicable. As Hävernick has observed, the prophet evidently intended to vindicate in ch. 6 the style and method of his previous prophecies, on the ground of the divine commission that he had received. but this only serves to explain the reason why Isaiah has not placed ch. 6 at the commencement of the collection, and not why he inserts it in this particular place. He has done this, no doubt, for the purpose of bringing close together the prophecy and its fulfilment; for whilst on the one hand the judgment of hardening suspended over the Jewish nation is brought distinctly out in the person of king Ahaz, on the other hand we find ourselves in the midst of the Syro-Ephraimitish war, which formed the introduction to the judgments of extermination predicted in Isa 6:11-13. It is only the position of ch. 1 which still remains in obscurity. If Isa 1:7-9 is to be understood in a historically literally sense, then c. 1 must have been composed after the dangers of the Syro- Ephraimitish war had been averted from Jerusalem, though the land of Judah was still bleeding with the open wounds which this war, designed as it was to destroy it altogether, had inflicted upon it.
Ch. 1 would therefore be of more recent origin than ch. 2-5, and still more recent than the connected ch. 7-12. It is only the comparatively more general and indefinite character of ch. 1 which seems at variance with this.
But this difficulty is removed at once, if we assume that ch. 1, though not indeed the first of the prophet’s addresses, was yet in one sense the firstnamely, the first that was committed to writing, though not the first that he delivered, and that it was primarily intended to form the preface to the addresses and historical accounts in ch. 2-12, the contents of which were regulated by it. For ch. 2-5 and 7-12 form two prophetic cycles, ch. 1 being the portal which leads into them, and ch. 6 the band which connects them together. The prophetic cycle in ch. 2-5 may be called the Book of hardening, as it is by Caspari, and ch. 7-12 the Book of Immanuel, as Chr.
Aug. Crusius suggests, because in all the stages through which the proclamation in ch. 7-12 passes, the coming Immanuel is the banner of consolation, which it lifts up even in the midst of the judgments already breaking upon the people, in accordance with the doom pronounced upon them in ch. 6. PART II CONSOLATION OF IMMANUEL IN THE MIDST OF THE ASSYRIAN OPPRESSIONS Divine Sign of the Virgin’s Wondrous Son ISAIAH 7:1 As the following prophecies could not be understood apart from the historical circumstances to which they refer, the prophet commences with a historical announcement. V. 1. “It came to pass, in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah (Uziyâhu), king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aramaea, and Pekah (Pekach) the son of Remaliah (Remalyâhu), king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, and (he) could not make war upon it.” We have the same words, with only slight variations, in the history of the reign of Ahaz in 2 Kings 16:5. That the author of the book of Kings copied them from the book of Isaiah, will be very apparent when we come to examine the historical chapters (36-39) in their relation to the parallel sections of the book of Kings. In the passage before us, the want of independence on the part of the author of the book of Kings is confirmed by the fact that he not only repeats, but also interprets, the words of Isaiah. Instead of saying, “And (he) could not make war upon it,” he says, “And they besieged Ahaz, and could not make war.”
The singular yâcol (he could) of Isaiah is changed into the simpler plural, whilst the statement that the two allies could not assault or storm Jerusalem (which must be the meaning of nilcham ‘al in the passage before us), is more clearly defined by the additional information that they did besiege Ahaz, but to no purpose (tzur ‘al, the usual expression for obsidione claudere; cf., Deut 20:19). The statement that “they besieged Ahaz” cannot merely signify that “they attempted to besiege him,” although nothing further is known about this siege. But happily we have two accounts of the Syro-Ephraimitish war (2 Kings 16 and 2 Chron 28).
The two historical books complete one another. The book of Kings relates that the invasion of Judah by the two allies commenced at the end of Jotham’s reign (2 Kings 15:37); and in addition to the statement taken from Isa 7:1, it also mentions that Rezin conquered the seaport town of Elath, which then belonged to the kingdom of Judah; whilst the Chronicles notice the fact that Rezin brought a number of Judaean captives to Damascus, and that Pekah conquered Ahaz in a bloody and destructive battle.
Indisputable as the credibility of these events may be, it is nevertheless very difficult to connect them together, either substantially or chronologically, in a certain and reliable manner, as Caspari has attempted to do in his monograph on the Syro-Ephraimitish war (1849). We may refer here to our own manner of dovetailing the historical accounts of Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimitish war in the introduction to the present work (p. 23ff.). If we could assume that lkoy; (not lkoy; ) was the authentic reading, and that the failure of the attempt to take Jerusalem, which is mentioned here, was occasioned by the strength of the city itself, and not by the intervention of Assyria-so that v. 1b did not contain such an anticipation as we have supposed (p. 24), although summary anticipations of this kind were customary with biblical historians, and more especially with Isaiah-the course of events might be arranged in the following manner, viz., that whilst Rezin was on his way to Elath, Pekah resolved to attack Jerusalem, but failed in his attempt; but that Rezin was more successful in his expedition, which was a much easier one, and after the conquest of Elath united his forces with those of his allies.
It is this which is referred to in v. 2: “And it was told the house of David, Aram has settled down upon Ephraim: then his heart shook, and the heart of his people, as trees of the wood shake before the wind.” The expression nuach ‘al (settled down upon) is explained in 2 Sam 17:12 (cf., Judg 7:12) by the figurative simile, “as the dew falleth upon the ground:” there it denotes a hostile invasion, here the arrival of one army to the support of another. Ephraim (feminine, like the names of countries, and of the people that are regarded as included in their respective countries: see, on the other hand, Isa 3:8) is used as the name of the leading tribe of Israel, to signify the whole kingdom; here it denotes the whole military force of Israel.
Following the combination mentioned above, we find that the allies now prepared for a second united expedition against Jerusalem. In the meantime, Jerusalem was in the condition described in Isa 1:7-9, viz., like a besieged city, in the midst of enemies plundering and burning on every side. Elath had fallen, as Rezin’s timely return clearly showed; and in the prospect of his approaching junction with the allied army, it was quite natural, from a human point of view, that the court and people of Jerusalem should tremble like aspen leaves. [æWn is a contracted fut. kal, ending with an a sound on account of the guttural, as in Ruth 4:1 (Ges. §72, Anm. 4); and [æWn , which is generally the form of the infin. abs. (Isa 24:20), is here, and only here, the infin. constr. instead of [æWn (cf., noach, Num 11:25; shob, Josh 2:16; moot, Ps 38:17, etc.: vid., Ewald, §238, b).
In this season of terror Isaiah received the following divine instructions. V. 3. “Then said Jehovah to Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou and Shear-jashub thy son, to the end of the aqueduct of the upper pool, to the road of the fuller’s field.” The fuller’s field (sedeeh coobees) was situated, as we may assume with Robinson, Schultz, and Thenius, against Williams, Krafft, etc., on the western side of the city, where there is still an “upper pool” of great antiquity (2 Chron 32:30). Near to this pool the fullers, i.e., the cleaners and thickeners of woollen fabrics, carried on their occupation (coobees, from câbas, related to câbash, subigere, which bears the same relation to râchatz as plu’nein to lou’ein). Robinson and his companions saw some people washing clothes at the upper pool when they were there; and, for a considerable distance round, the surface of this favourite washing and bleaching place was covered with things spread out to bleach or dry.
The road (mesillâh), which ran past this fuller’s field, was the one which leads from the western gate to Joppa. King Ahaz was there, on the west of the city, and outside the fortifications-engaged, no doubt, in making provision for the probable event of Jerusalem being again besieged in a still more threatening manner. Jerusalem received its water supply from the upper Gihon pool, and there, according to Jehovah’s directions, Isaiah was to go with his son and meet him. The two together were, as it were, a personified blessing and curse, presenting themselves to the king for him to make his own selection. For the name Sheâr-yâshub (which is erroneously accentuated with tiphchah munach instead of merchah tiphchah, as in Isa 10:22), i.e., the remnant is converted (Isa 10:21-22), was a kind of abbreviation of the divine answer given to the prophet in ch. 6:11-13, and was indeed at once threatening and promising, but in such a way that the curse stood in front and the grace behind. The prophetic name of Isaiah’s son was intended to drive the king to Jehovah by force, through the threatening aspect it presented; and the prophetic announcement of Isaiah himself, whose name pointed to salvation, was to allure him to Jehovah with its promising tone.
No means were left untried. V. 4. “And say unto him, Take heed, and keep quiet; and let not thy heart become soft from these two smoking firebrandstumps: at the fierce anger of Rezin, and Aram, and the son of Remaliah.”
The imperative rmæv; (not pointed rmæv; , as is the case when it is to be connected more closely with what follows, and taken in the sense of cave ne, or even cave ut) warned the king against acting for himself, in estrangement from God; and the imperative hashkeet exhorted him to courageous calmness, secured by confidence in God; or, as Calvin expresses it, exhorted him “to restrain himself outwardly, and keep his mind calm within.” The explanation given by Jewish expositors to the word hisshameer, viz., conside super faeces tuas (Luzzatto: vivi riposato), according to Jer 48:11; Zeph 1:12, yields a sense which hardly suits the exhortation. The object of terror, at which and before which the king’s heart was not to despair, is introduced first of all with Min and then with Beth, as in Jer. 41:46. The two allies are designated at once as what they were in the sight of God, who sees through the true nature and future condition. They were two tails, i.e., nothing but the fag-ends, of wooden pokers (lit. stirrers, i.e., fire-stirrers), which would not blaze any more, but only continue smoking. They would burn and light no more, though their smoke might make the eyes smart still. Along with Rezin, and to avoid honouring him with the title of king, Aram (Syria) is especially mentioned; whilst Pekah is called Ben-Remaliah, to recal to mind his low birth, and the absence of any promise in the case of his house.
The ya’an ‘asher (“because”) which follows (as in Ezek 12:12) does not belong to v. 4 (as might appear from the sethume that comes afterwards), in the sense of “do not be afraid because,” etc., but is to be understood as introducing the reason for the judicial sentence in v. 7.
“Because Aram hath determined evil over thee, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah (Remalyahu), saying, We will march against Judah, and terrify it, and conquer it for ourselves, and make the son of Tâb’êl king in the midst of it: thus saith the Lord Jehovah, It will not be brought about, and will not take place.” The inference drawn by Caspari (Krieg, p. 98), that at the time when Isaiah said this, Judaea was not yet heathen or conquered, is at any rate not conclusive. The promise given to Ahaz was founded upon the wicked design, with which the war had been commenced. How far the allies had already gone towards this last goal, the overthrow of the Davidic sovereignty, it does not say. But we know from 2 Kings 15:37 that the invasion had begun before Ahaz ascended the throne; and we may see from v. 16 of Isaiah’s prophecy, that the “terrifying” (nekiitzennah, from kuutz, taedere, pavere) had actually taken place; so that the “conquering” (hibkia’, i.e., splitting, forcing of the passes and fortifications, 2 Kings 25:4; Ezek 30:16; 2 Chron 21:17; 32:1) must also have been a thing belonging to the past. For history says nothing about a successful resistance on the part of Judah in this war. Only Jerusalem had not yet fallen, and, as the expression “king in the midst of it” shows, it is to this that the term “Judah” especially refers; just as in Isa 23:13 Asshur is to be understood as signifying Nineveh. There they determined to enthrone a man named Tâb’êl (vid., Ezra 4:7; it is written Tâb’al here in pause, although this change does not occur in other words (e.g., Israel) in pause-a name resembling the Syrian name Tab-rimmon), a man who is otherwise unknown; but it never went beyond the determination, never was even on the way towards being realized, to say nothing of being fully accomplished. The allies would not succeed in altering the course of history as it had been appointed by the Lord.
“For head of Aram is Damascus, and head of Damascus Rezin, and in fiveand- sixty years will Ephraim as a people be broken in pieces. And head of Ephraim is Samaria, and head of Samaria the son of Remalyahu; if ye believe not, surely ye will not remain.” The attempt to remove v. 8b, as a gloss at variance with the context, which is supported by Eichhorn, Gesenius, Hitzig, Knobel, and others, is a very natural one; and in that case the train of thought would simply be, that the two hostile kingdoms would continue in their former relation without the annexation of Judah. But when we look more closely, it is evident that the removal of v. 8b destroys both the internal connection and the external harmony of the clauses. For just as 8a and 8b correspond, so do 9a and 9b. Ephraim, i.e., the kingdom of the ten tribes, which has entered into so unnatural and ungodly a covenant with idolatrous Syria, will cease to exist as a nation in the course of sixty-five years; “and ye, if ye do not believe, but make flesh your arm, will also cease to exist.”
Thus the two clauses answer to one another: 8b is a prophecy announcing Ephraim’s destruction, and 9b a warning, threatening Judah with destruction, if it rejects the promise with unbelief. Moreover, the style of 8b is quite in accordance with that of Isaiah (on `dwO[ , see Isa 21:16 and 16:14; and on `µ[æ , “away from being a people,” in the sense of “so that it shall be no longer a nation,” Isa 17:1; 25:2, and Jer 48:2,42). And the doctrinal objection, that the prophecy is too minute, and therefore taken ex eventu, has no force whatever, since the Old Testament prophecy furnishes an abundance of examples of the same kind (vid., Isa 20:3-4; 38:5; 16:14; 21:16; Ezek 4:5ff., Isa 24:1ff., etc.). The only objection that can well be raised is, that the time given in v. 8b is wrong, and is not in harmony with v. 16. Now, undoubtedly the sixty-five years do not come out if we suppose the prophecy to refer to what was done by Tiglath-pileser after the Syro-Ephraimitish war, and to what was also done to Ephraim by Shalmanassar in the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign, to which v. unquestionably refers, and more especially to the former. But there is another event still, through which the existence of Ephraim, not only as a kingdom, but also as a people, was broken up-namely, the carrying away of the last remnant of the Ephraimitish population, and the planting of colonies from Eastern Asia by Esarhaddon on Ephraimitish soil (2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:2). Whereas the land of Judah was left desolate after the Chaldean deportation, and a new generation grew up there, and those who were in captivity were once more enabled to return; the land of Ephraim was occupied by heathen settlers, and the few who were left behind were melted up with these into the mixed people of the Samaritans, and those in captivity were lost among the heathen. We have only to assume that what was done to Ephraim by Esarhaddon, as related in the historical books, took place in the twenty-second and twenty-third years of Manasseh (the sixth year of Esarhaddon), which is very probable, since it must have been under Esarhaddon that Manasseh was carried away to Babylon about the middle of his reign (2 Chron 33:11); and we get exactly sixty-five years from the second year of the reign of Ahaz to the termination of Ephraim’s existence as a nation (viz., Ahaz, 14; Hezekiah,29; Manasseh, 22; in all, 65). It was then that the unconditional prediction, “Ephraim as a people will be broken in pieces,” was fulfilled (yeechath mee’âm; it is certainly not the 3rd pers. fut. kal, but the niphal, Mal 2:5), just as the conditional threat “ye shall not remain” was fulfilled upon Judah in the Babylonian captivity. ˆmæa; signifies to have a fast hold, and ˆmæa; to prove fast-holding. If Judah did not hold fast to its God, it would lose its fast hold by losing its country, the ground beneath its feet. We have the same play upon words in 2 Chron 20:20. The suggestion of Geiger is a very improbable one, viz., that the original reading was ybi wnymaj al µa , but that µyrit;a appeared objectionable, and was altered into yKi . Why should it be objectionable, when the words form the conclusion to a direct address of Jehovah Himself, which is introduced with all solemnity? For this yKi , passing over from a confirmative into an affirmative sense, and employed, as it is here, to introduce the apodosis of the hypothetical clause, see 1 Sam 14:39, and (in the formula `hT;[æ yKi ) Gen 31:42; 43:10; Num 22:29,33; 1 Sam 14:30: their continued existence would depend upon their faith, as this chi emphatically declares.
Thus spake Isaiah, and Jehovah through him, to the king of Judah.
Whether he replied, or what reply he made, we are not informed. He was probably silent, because he carried a secret in his heart which afforded him more consolation than the words of the prophet. The invisible help of Jehovah, and the remote prospect of the fall of Ephraim, were not enough for him. His trust was in Asshur, with whose help he would have far greater superiority over the kingdom of Israel, than Israel had over the kingdom of Judah through the help of Damascene Syria. The pious, theocratic policy of the prophet did not come in time. He therefore let the enthusiast talk on, and had his own thoughts about the matter.
Nevertheless the grace of God did not give up the unhappy son of David for lost. Vv. 10, 11. “And Jehovah continued speaking to Ahaz as follows:
Ask thee a sign of Jehovah thy God, going deep down into Hades, or high up to the height above.”
Jehovah continued: what a deep and firm consciousness of the identity of the word of Jehovah and the word of the prophet is expressed in these words! According to a very marvellous interchange of idioms (communicatio idiomatum) which runs through the prophetic books of the Old Testament, at one time the prophet speaks as if he were Jehovah, and at another, as in the case before us, Jehovah speaks as if He were the prophet. Ahaz was to ask for a sign from Jehovah his God. Jehovah did not scorn to call Himself the God of this son of David, who had so hardened his heart. Possibly the holy love with which the expression “thy God” burned, might kindle a flame in his dark heart; or possibly he might think of the covenant promises and covenant duties which the words “thy God” recalled to his mind. From this, his God, he was to ask for a sign. A sign (‘oth, from ‘uth, to make an incision or dent) was something, some occurrence, or some action, which served as a pledge of the divine certainty of something else.
This was secured sometimes by visible miracles performed at once (Ex 4:8- 9), or by appointed symbols of future events (Isa 8:18; 20:3); sometimes by predicted occurrences, which, whether miraculous or natural, could not possibly be foreseen by human capacities, and therefore, if they actually took place, were a proof either retrospectively of the divine causality of other events (Ex 3:12), or prospectively of their divine certainty (Isa 37:30; Jer 44:29-30). The thing to be confirmed on the present occasion was what the prophet had just predicted in so definite a manner, viz., the maintenance of Judah with its monarchy, and the failure of the wicked enterprise of the two allied kingdoms. If this was to be attested to Ahaz in such a way as to demolish his unbelief, it could only be effected by a miraculous sign. And just as Hezekiah asked for a sign when Isaiah foretold his recovery, and promised him the prolongation of his life for fifteen years, and the prophet gave him the sign he asked, by causing the shadow upon the royal sun-dial to go backwards instead of forwards (ch. 38); so here Isaiah meets Ahaz with the offer of such a supernatural sign, and offers him the choice of heaven, earth, and Hades as the scene of the `qmæ[; and HbæG; are either in the infinitive absolute or in the imperative; and hl;a’v] is either the imperative laæv; with the He of challenge, which is written in this form in half pause instead of sha’alaah (for the two similar forms with pashtah and zakeph, vid., Dan 9:19), “Only ask, going deep down, or ascending to the height,” without there being any reason for reading hl;a;v] with the tone upon the last syllable, as Hupfeld proposes, in the sense of profundam fac (or faciendo) precationem (i.e., go deep down with thy petition); or else it is the pausal subordinate form for lwOav] , which is quite allowable in itself (cf., yechpâtz, the constant form in pause for yachpootz, and other examples, Gen 43:14; 49:3,27), and is apparently preferred here on account of its consonance with l[æmæ (Ewald, §93, 3).
We follow the Targum, with the Sept., Syr., and Vulgate, in giving the preference to the latter of the two possibilities. It answers to the antithesis; and if we had the words before us without points, this would be the first to suggest itself. Accordingly the words would read, Go deep down (in thy desire) to Hades, or go high up to the height; or more probably, taking `qm,[e and hbnh in the sense of gerundives, “Going deep down to Hades, or owOa from hw;a; , like vel from velle = si velis, malis) going high up to the height.” This offer of the prophet to perform any kind of miracle, either in the world above or in the lower world, has thrown rationalistic commentators into very great perplexity. The prophet, says Hitzig, was playing a very dangerous game here; and if Ahaz had closed with his offer, Jehovah would probably have left him in the lurch.
And Meier observes, that “it can never have entered the mind of an Isaiah to perform an actual miracle:” probably because no miracles were ever performed by Göthe, to whose high poetic consecration Meier compares the consecration of the prophet as described in ch. 6. Knobel answers the question, “What kind of sign from heaven would Isaiah have given in case it had been asked for?” by saying, “Probably a very simple matter.” But even granting that an extraordinary heavenly phenomenon could be a “simple matter,” it was open to king Ahaz not to be so moderate in his demands upon the venturesome prophet, as Knobel with his magnanimity might possibly have been. Dazzled by the glory of the Old Testament prophecy, a rationalistic exegesis falls prostrate upon the ground; and it is with such frivolous, coarse, and common words as these that it tries to escape from its difficulties. It cannot acknowledge the miraculous power of the prophet, because it believes in no miracles at all.
But Ahaz had no doubt about his miraculous power, though he would not be constrained by any miracle to renounce his own plans and believe in Jehovah. V. 12. “But Ahaz replied, I dare not ask, and dare not tempt Jehovah.” What a pious sound this has! And yet his self-hardening reached its culminating point in these well-sounding words. He hid himself hypocritically under the mask of Deut 6:16, to avoid being disturbed in his Assyrian policy, and was infatuated enough to designate the acceptance of what Jehovah Himself had offered as tempting God. He studiously brought down upon himself the fate denounced in ch. 6, and indeed not upon himself only, but upon all Judah as well. For after a few years the forces of Asshur would stand upon the same fuller’s field (Isa 36:2) and demand the surrender of Jerusalem. In that very hour, in which Isaiah was standing before Ahaz, the fate of Jerusalem was decided for more than two thousand years.
Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
The prophet might have ceased speaking now; but in accordance with the command in ch. 6 he was obliged to speak, even though his word should be a savour of death unto death. V. 13. “And he spake, Hear ye now, O house of David! Is it too little to you to weary men, that ye weary my God also?” “He spake.” Who spake? According to v. 10 the speaker was Jehovah; yet what follows is given as the word of the prophet. Here again it is assumed that the word of the prophet was the word of God, and that the prophet was the organ of God even when he expressly distinguished between himself and God. The words were addressed to the “house of David,” i.e., to Ahaz, including all the members of the royal family. Ahaz himself was not yet thirty years old. The prophet could very well have borne that the members of the house of David should thus frustrate all his own faithful, zealous human efforts. But they were not content with this (on the expression minus quam vos = quam ut vobis sufficiat, see Num 16; 9; Job 15:11): they also wearied out the long-suffering of his God, by letting Him exhaust all His means of correcting them without effect. They would not believe without seeing; and when signs were offered them to see, in order that they might believe, they would not even look. Jehovah would therefore give them, against their will, a sign of His own choosing.
“Therefore the Lord, He will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin conceives, and bears a son, and calls his name Immanuel. Butter and honey will he eat, at the time that he knows to refuse the evil and choose the good.” In its form the prophecy reminds one of Gen 16:11, “Behold, thou art with child, and wilt bear a son, and call his name Ishmael.” Here, however, the words are not addressed to the person about to bear the child, although Matthew gives this interpretation to the prophecy; for ar;q; is not the second person, but the third, and is synonymous with ar;q; (according to Ges. §74. Anm. 1), another form which is also met with in Gen 33:11; Lev 25:21; Deut 31:29, and Ps 118:23. f42 Moreover, the condition of pregnancy, which is here designated by the participial adjective hr,h; (cf., 2 Sam 11:5), was not an already existing one in this instance, but (as in all probability also in Judg 13:5, cf., 4) something future, as well as the act of bearing, since hinneeh is always used by Isaiah to introduce a future occurrence. This use of hinneh in Isaiah is a sufficient answer to Gesenius, Knobel, and others, who understand hâ’almâh as referring to the young wife of the prophet himself, who was at that very time with child. But it is altogether improbable that the wife of the prophet himself should be intended. For if it were to her that he referred, he could hardly have expressed himself in a more ambiguous and unintelligible manner; and we cannot see why he should not much rather have said hV;ai or ha;ybin] , to say nothing of the fact that there is no further allusion made to any son of the prophet of that name, and that a sign of this kind founded upon the prophet’s own family affairs would have been one of a very precarious nature.
And the meaning and use of the word ‘almâh are also at variance with this.
For whilst bethulâh (from bâthal, related to bâdal, to separate, sejungere) signifies a maiden living in seclusion in her parents’ house and still a long way from matrimony, ‘almâh (from ‘âlam, related to châlam, and possibly also to µlæa; , to be strong, full of vigour, or arrived at the age of puberty) is applied to one fully mature, and approaching the time of her marriage. f43 The two terms could both be applied to persons who were betrothed, and even to such as were married (Joel 2:16; Prov 30:19: see Hitzig on these passages). It is also admitted that the idea of spotless virginity was not necessarily connected with ‘almâh (as in Gen 24:43, cf., 16), since there are passages-such, for example, as Song of Sol. 6:8-where it can hardly be distinguished from the Arabic surrîje; and a person who had a very younglooking wife might be said to have an ‘almah for his wife. But it is inconceivable that in a well-considered style, and one of religious earnestness, a woman who had been long married, like the prophet’s own wife, could be called hâ’almâh without any reserve. f44 On the other hand, the expression itself warrants the assumption that by hâ’almâh the prophet meant one of the ‘alâmoth of the king’s harem (Luzzatto); and if we consider that the birth of the child was to take place, as the prophet foresaw, in the immediate future, his thoughts might very well have been fixed upon Abijah (Abi) bath-Zechariah (2 Kings 18:2; Chron 29:1), who became the mother of king Hezekiah, to whom apparently the virtues of the mother descended, in marked contrast with the vices of his father. This is certainly possible. At the same time, it is also certain that the child who was to be born was the Messiah, and not a new Israel (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, ii. 1, 87, 88); that is to say, that he was no other than that “wonderful” heir of the throne of David, whose birth is hailed with joy in ch. 9, where even commentators like Knobel are obliged to admit that the Messiah is meant.
It was the Messiah whom the prophet saw here as about to be born, then again in ch. 9 as actually born, and again in ch. 11 as reigning-an indivisible triad of consolatory images in three distinct states, interwoven with the three stages into which the future history of the nation unfolded itself in the prophet’s view. If, therefore, his eye was directed towards the Abijah mentioned, he must have regarded her as the future mother of the Messiah, and her son as the future Messiah. Now it is no doubt true, that in the course of the sacred history Messianic expectations were often associated with individuals who did not answer to them, so that the Messianic prospect was moved further into the future; and it is not only possible, but even probable, and according to many indications an actual fact, that the believing portion of the nation did concentrate their Messianic wishes and hopes for a long time upon Hezekiah; but even if Isaiah’s prophecy may have evoked such human conjectures and expectations, through the measure of time which it laid down, it would not be a prophecy at all, if it rested upon no better foundation than this, which would be the case if Isaiah had a particular maiden of his own day in his mind at the time.
Are we to conclude, then, that the prophet did not refer to any one individual, but that the “virgin” was a personification of the house of David? This view, which Hofmann propounded, and Stier appropriated, and which Ebrard has revived, notwithstanding the fact that Hofmann relinquished it, does not help us over the difficulty; for we should expect in that case to find “daughter of Zion,” or something of the kind, since the term “virgin” is altogether unknown in a personification of this kind, and the house of David, as the prophet knew it, was by no means worthy of such an epithet. No other course is left, therefore, than to assume that whilst, on the one hand, the prophet meant by “the virgin” a maiden belonging to the house of David, which the Messianic character of the prophecy requires; on the other hand, he neither thought of any particular maiden, nor associated the promised conception with any human father, who could not have been any other than Ahaz. The reference is the same as in Mic 5:3 (“she which travaileth,” yooleedah). The objection that hâ’almâh (the virgin) cannot be a person belonging to the future, on account of the article (Hofmann, p. 86), does not affect the true explanation: it was the virgin whom the spirit of prophecy brought before the prophet’s mind, and who, although he could not give her name, stood before him as singled out for an extraordinary end (compare the article in hanna’ar in Num 11:27 etc.).
With what exalted dignity this mother appeared to him to be invested, is evident from the fact that it is she who gives the name to her son, and that the name Immanuel. This name sounds full of promise.
But if we look at the expression “therefore,” and the circumstance which occasioned it, the sign cannot have been intended as a pure or simple promise. We naturally expect, first, that it will be an extraordinary fact which the prophet foretells; and secondly, that it will be a fact with a threatening front. Now a humiliation of the house of David was indeed involved in the fact that the God of whom it would know nothing would nevertheless mould its future history, as the emphatic aWh implies, He ( auto>v , the Lord Himself), by His own impulse and unfettered choice.
Moreover, this moulding of the future could not possibly be such an one as was desired, but would of necessity be as full of threatening to the unbelieving house of David as it was full of promise to the believers in Israel. And the threatening character of the “sign” is not to be sought for exclusively in v. 15, since both the expressions “therefore” (lâceen) and “behold” (hinneeh) place the main point of the sign in v. 14, whilst the introduction of v. 15 without any external connection is a clear proof that what is stated in v. 14 is the chief thing, and not the reverse.
But the only thing in v. 14 which indicated any threatening element in the sign in question, must have been the fact that it would not be by Ahaz, or by a son of Ahaz, or by the house of David generally, which at that time had hardened itself against God, that God would save His people, but that a nameless maiden of low rank, whom God had singled out and now showed to the prophet in the mirror of His counsel, would give birth to the divine deliverer of His people in the midst of the approaching tribulations, which was a sufficient intimation that He who was to be the pledge of Judah’s continuance would not arrive without the present degenerate house of David, which had brought Judah to the brink of ruin, being altogether set aside.
But the further question arises here, What constituted the extraordinary character of the fact here announced? It consisted in the fact, that, according to Isa 9:5, Immanuel Himself was to be a al,p, (wonder or wonderful). He would be God in corporeal self-manifestation, and therefore a “wonder” as being a superhuman person. We should not venture to assert this if it went beyond the line of Old Testament revelation, but the prophet asserts it himself in Isa 9:5 (cf., Isa 10:21): his words are as clear as possible; and we must not make them obscure, to favour any preconceived notions as to the development of history. The incarnation of Deity was unquestionably a secret that was not clearly unveiled in the Old Testament, but the veil was not so thick but that some rays could pass through. Such a ray, directed by the spirit of prophecy into the mind of the prophet, was the prediction of Immanuel. But if the Messiah was to be Immanuel in this sense, that He would Himself be El (God), as the prophet expressly affirms, His birth must also of necessity be a wonderful or miraculous one. The prophet does not affirm, indeed, that the “‘almâh,” who had as yet known no man, would give birth to Immanuel without this taking place, so that he could not be born of the house of David as well as into it, but be a gift of Heaven itself; but this “‘almâh” or virgin continued throughout an enigma in the Old Testament, stimulating “inquiry” (1 Peter 1:10-12), and waiting for the historical solution. Thus the sign in question was, on the one hand, a mystery glaring in the most threatening manner upon the house of David; and, on the other hand, a mystery smiling with which consolation upon the prophet and all believers, and couched in these enigmatical terms, in order that those who hardened themselves might not understand it, and that believers might increasingly long to comprehend its meaning.
In v. 15 the threatening element of v. 14 becomes the predominant one. It would not be so, indeed, if “butter (thickened milk) and honey” were mentioned here as the ordinary food of the tenderest age of childhood (as Gesenius, Hengstenberg, and others suppose). But the reason afterwards assigned in vv. 16, 17, teaches the very opposite. Thickened milk and honey, the food of the desert, would be the only provisions furnished by the land at the time in which the ripening youth of Immanuel would fall. ha;m]j, (from µjæn; , to be thick) is a kind of butter which is still prepared by nomads by shaking milk in skins. It may probably include the cream, as the Arabic semen signifies both, but not the curds or cheese, the name of which (at least the more accurate name) if gebiinâh. The object to [dæy; is expressed in vv. 15, 16 by infinitive absolutes (compare the more usual mode of expression in Isa 8:4).
The Lamed prefixed to the verb does not mean “until” (Ges. §131, 1), for Lamed is never used as so definite an indication of the terminus ad quem; the meaning is either “towards the time when he understands” (Amos 4:7, cf., Lev 24:12, “to the end that”), or about the time, at the time when he understands (Isa 10:3; Gen 8:11; Job 24:14). This kind of food would coincide in time with his understanding, that is to say, would run parallel to it. Incapacity to distinguish between good and bad is characteristic of early childhood (Deut 1:39, etc.), and also of old age when it relapses into childish ways (2 Sam 19:36). The commencement of the capacity to understand is equivalent to entering into the so-called years of discretionthe riper age of free and conscious self-determination. By the time that Immanuel reached this age, all the blessings of the land would have been so far reduced, that from a land full of luxuriant corn-fields and vineyards, it would have become a large wooded pasture-ground, supplying milk and honey, and nothing more. A thorough devastation of the land is therefore the reason for this limitation to the simplest, and, when compared with the fat of wheat and the cheering influence of wine, most meagre and miserable food. And this is the ground assigned in vv. 16, 17. Two successive and closely connected events would occasion this universal desolation.
“For before the boy shall understand to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land will be desolate, of whose two kings thou art afraid.
Jehovah will bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days such as have not come since the day when Ephraim broke away from Judah-the king of Asshur.” The land of the two kings, Syria and Israel, was first of all laid waste by the Assyrians, whom Ahaz called to his assistance. Tiglath-pileser conquered Damascus and a portion of the kingdom of Israel, and led a large part of the inhabitants of the two countries into captivity (2 Kings 15:29; 16:9). Judah was then also laid waste by the Assyrians, as a punishment for having refused the help of Jehovah, and preferred the help of man. Days of adversity would come upon the royal house and people of Judah, such as (‘asher, quales, as in Ex 10:6) had not come upon them since the calamitous day (l’miyyoom, inde a die; in other places we find l’min-hayyom, Ex 9:18; Deut 4:32; 9:7, etc.) of the falling away of the ten tribes.
The appeal to Asshur laid the foundation for the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah, quite as much as for that of the kingdom of Israel. Ahaz became the tributary vassal of the king of Assyria in consequence; and although Hezekiah was set free from Asshur through the miraculous assistance of Jehovah, what Nebuchadnezzar afterwards performed was only the accomplishment of the frustrated attempt of Sennacherib. It is with piercing force that the words “the king of Assyria” (‘eth melek Asshur) are introduced at the close of the two verses. The particle ‘eth is used frequently where an indefinite object is followed by the more precise and definite one (Gen 6:10; 26:34). The point of the verse would be broken by eliminating the words as a gloss, as Knobel proposes. The very king to whom Ahaz had appealed in his terror, would bring Judah to the brink of destruction. The absence of any link of connection between vv. 16 and is also very effective.
The hopes raised in the mind of Ahaz by v. 16 are suddenly turned into bitter disappointment. In the face of such catastrophes as these, Isaiah predicts the birth of Immanuel. His eating only thickened milk and honey, at a time when he knew very well what was good and what was not, would arise from the desolation of the whole of the ancient territory of the Davidic kingdom that had preceded the riper years of his youth, when he would certainly have chosen other kinds of food, if they could possibly have been found. Consequently the birth of Immanuel apparently falls between the time then present and the Assyrian calamities, and his earliest childhood appears to run parallel to the Assyrian oppression. In any case, their consequences would be still felt at the time of his riper youth. In what way the truth of the prophecy was maintained notwithstanding, we shall see presently. What follows in vv. 18-25, is only a further expansion of v. 17. The promising side of the “sign” remains in the background, because this was not for Ahaz. When Ewald expresses the opinion that a promising strophe has fallen out after v. 17, he completely mistakes the circumstances under which the prophet uttered these predictions. In the presence of Ahaz he must keep silence as to the promises. But he pours out with all the greater fluency his threatening of judgment.
“And it comes to pass in that day, Jehovah will hiss for the fly which is at the end of the Nile-arms of Egypt, and the bees that are in the land of Asshur; and they come and settle all of them in the valleys of the slopes, and in the clefts of the rocks, and in all the thorn-hedges, and upon all grass-plats.” The prophet has already stated, in Isa 5:26, that Jehovah would hiss for distant nations; and how he is able to describe them by name. The Egyptian nation, with its vast and unparalleled numbers, is compared to the swarming fly; and the Assyrian nation, with its love of war and conquest, to the stinging bee which is so hard to keep off (Deut 1:44; Ps 118:12). The emblems also correspond to the nature of the two countries: the fly to slimy Egypt with its swarms of insects (see Isa 18:1), f45 and the bee to the more mountainous and woody Assyria, where the keeping of bees is still one of the principal branches of trade. raoy] , pl. raoy] , is an Egyptian name (yaro, with the article phiaro, pl. yarôu) for the Nile and its several arms.
The end of the Nile-arms of Egypt, from a Palestinian point of view, was the extreme corner of the land. The military force of Egypt would march out of the whole compass of the land, and meet the Assyrian force in the Holy Land; and both together would cover the land in such a way that the valleys of steep precipitous heights (nachalee habbattoth), and clefts of the rocks (nekikee hasselâ’im), and all the thorn-hedges (nâ’azuuziim) and pastures (nahalolim, from niheel, to lead to pasture), would be covered with these swarms. The fact that just such places are named, as afforded a suitable shelter and abundance of food for flies and bees, is a filling up of the figure in simple truthfulness to nature. And if we look at the historical fulfilment, it does not answer even in this respect to the actual letter of the prophecy; for in the time of Hezekiah no collision really took place between the Assyrian and Egyptian forces; and it was not till the days of Josiah that a collision took place between the Chaldean and Egyptian powers in the eventful battle fought between Pharaoh-Necho and Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish (Circesium), which decided the fate of Judah. That the spirit of prophecy points to this eventful occurrence is evident from v. 20, where no further allusion is made to Egypt, because of its having succumbed to the imperial power of Eastern Asia. ISAIAH 7:20 “In that day will the Lord shave with a razor, the thing for hire on the shore of the river, with the king of Assyria, the head and the hair of the feet; and even the beard it will take away.” Knobel takes the hair to be a figurative representation of the produce of the land; but the only thing which at all favours the idea that the flora is ever regarded by biblical writers as the hairy covering of the soil, is the use of the term nâzir as the name of an uncultivated vine left to itself (Lev 25:5). The nation of Judah is regarded here, as in Isa 1:6, as a man stript naked, and not only with all the hair of his head and feet shaved off (raglaim, a euphemism), but what was regarded as the most shameful of all, with the hair of his beard shaved off as well. To this end the Almighty would make use of a razor, which is more distinctly defined as hired on the shore of the Euphrates (conductitia in litoribus Euphratis: nâhâr stands here for hannâhâr), and still more precisely as the king of Asshur (the latter is again pronounced a gloss by Knobel and others). “The thing for hire:” hasseciirâh might be an abstract term (hiring, conductio), but it may also be the feminine of sâciir, which indicates an emphatic advance from the indefinite to the more definite; in the sense of “with a razor, namely, that which was standing ready to be hired in the lands on both sides of the Euphrates, the king of Assyria.” In hasseciirâh (the thing for hire) there was involved the bitterest sarcasm for Ahaz. The sharp knife, which it had hired for the deliverance of Judah, was hired by the Lord, to shave Judah most thoroughly, and in the most disgraceful manner. Thus shaved, Judah would be a depopulated and desert land, in which men would no longer live by growing corn and vines, or by trade and commerce, but by grazing alone.
“And it will come to pass in that day, that a man will keep a small cow and a couple of sheep; and it comes to pass, for the abundance of the milk they give he will eat cream: for butter and honey will every one eat that is left within the land.” The former prosperity would be reduced to the most miserable housekeeping. One man would keep a milch cow and two head of sheep (or goats) alive with the greatest care, the strongest and finest full-grown cattle having fallen into the hands of the foe hy;j; , like hy;j; in other places: shtee, not shnee, because two female sheep or goats are meant). But this would be quite enough, for there would be only a few men left in the land; and as all the land would be pasture, the small number of animals would yield milk in abundance. Bread and wine would be unattainable. Whoever had escaped the Assyrian razor, would eat thickened milk and honey, that and nothing but that, without variation, ad nauseam. The reason for this would be, that the hills, which at other times were full of vines and corn-fields, would be overgrown with briers.
The prophet repeats this three times in vv. 23-25: “And it will come to pass in that day, every place, where a thousand vines stood at a thousand silverlings, will have become thorns and thistles. With arrows and with bows will men go, for the whole land will have become thorns and thistles.
And all the hills that were accustomed to be hoed with the hoe, thou wilt not go to them for fear of thorns and thistles; and it has become a gathering-place for oxen, and a treading-place for sheep.” The “thousand silverlings” (‘eleph ceseph, i.e., a thousand shekels of silver) recall to mind Song of Sol. 8:11, though there it is the value of the yearly produce, whereas here the thousand shekels are the value of a thousand vines, the sign of a peculiarly valuable piece of a vineyard. At the present time they reckon the worth of a vineyard in Lebanon and Syria according to the value of the separate vines, and generally take the vines at one piastre (from 2nd to 3rd) each; just as in Germany a Johannisberg vine is reckoned at a ducat.
Every piece of ground, where such valuable vines were standing, would have fallen a prey to the briers. People would go there with bow and arrow, because the whole land had become thorns and thistles (see at Isa 5:12a), and therefore wild animals had made their homes there. And thou (the prophet addresses the countryman thus) comest not to all the hills, which were formerly cultivated in the most careful manner; thou comest not thither to make them arable again, because thorns and thistles deter thee from reclaiming such a fallow. They would therefore give the oxen freedom to rove where they would, and let sheep and goats tread down whatever grew there. The description is intentionally thoroughly tautological and pleonastic, heavy and slow in movement. The writer’s intention is to produce the impression of a waste heath, or tedious monotony. Hence the repetitions of hâyâh and yihyeh. Observe how great the variations are in the use of the future and perfect, and how the meaning is always determined by the context. In vv. 21, 22, the futures have a really future sense; in v. 23 the first and third yihyeh signify “will have become” (factus erit omnis locus), and the second “was” (erat); in v. 24 awOB means “will come” (veniet), and tihyeh “will have become” (facta erit terra); in v. 25 we must render yee’âdeeruun, sarciebantur (they used to be hoed). And in vv. 21, 22, and 23, hâyâh is equivalent to fiet (it will become); whilst in v. 25 it means factum est (it has become). Looked at from a western point of view, therefore, the future tense is sometimes a simple future, sometimes a future perfect, and sometimes an imperfect or synchronistic preterite; and the perfect sometimes a prophetic preterite, sometimes an actual preterite, but the sphere of an ideal past, or what is the same thing, of a predicted future.
This ends Isaiah’s address to king Ahaz. He does not expressly say when Immanuel is to be born, but only what will take place before he has reached the riper age of boyhood-namely, first, the devastation of Israel and Syria, and then the devastation of Judah itself, by the Assyrians. From the fact that the prophet says no more than this, we may see that his spirit and his tongue were under the direction of the Spirit of God, who does not descend within the historical and temporal range of vision, without at the same time remaining exalted above it. On the other hand, however, we may see from what he says, that the prophecy has its human side as well. When Isaiah speaks of Immanuel as eating thickened milk and honey, like all who survived the Assyrian troubles in the Holy Land; he evidently looks upon and thinks of the childhood of Immanuel as connected with the time of the Assyrian calamities.
And it was in such a perspective combination of events lying far apart, that the complex character of prophecy consisted. The reason for this complex character was a double one, viz., the human limits associated with the prophet’s telescopic view of distant times, and the pedagogical wisdom of God, in accordance with which He entered into these limits instead of removing them. If, therefore, we adhere to the letter of prophecy, we may easily throw doubt upon its veracity; but if we look at the substance of the prophecy, we soon find that the complex character by no means invalidates its truth. For the things which the prophet saw in combination were essentially connected, even though chronologically separated. When, for example, in the case before us (ch. 7-12), Isaiah saw Asshur only, standing out as the imperial kingdom; this was so far true, that the four imperial kingdoms from the Babylonian to the Roman were really nothing more than the full development of the commencement made in Assyria. And when he spoke of the son of the virgin (ch. 7) as growing up in the midst of the Assyrian oppressions; this also was so far true, that Jesus was really born at a time when the Holy Land, deprived of its previous abundance, was under the dominion of the imperial power, and in a condition whose primary cause was to be traced to the unbelief of Ahaz. Moreover, He who became flesh in the fulness of time, did really lead an ideal life in the Old Testament history.
He was in the midst of it in a pre-existent presence, moving on towards the covenant goal. The fact that the house and nation of David did not perish in the Assyrian calamities, was actually to be attributed, as ch. presupposes, to His real though not His bodily presence. In this way the apparent discrepancy between the prophecy and the history of the fulfilment may be solved. We do not require the solution proposed by Vitringa, and recently appropriate by Haneberg-namely, that the prophet takes the stages of the Messiah’s life out of the distant future, to make them the measure of events about to take place in the immediate future; nor that of Bengel, Schegg, Schmieder, and others-namely, that the sign consisted in an event belonging to the immediate future, which pointed typically to the birth of the true Immanuel; nor that of Hofmann, who regards the words of the prophet as an emblematical prediction of the rise of a new Israel, which would come to the possession of spiritual intelligence in the midst of troublous times, occasioned by the want of intelligence in the Israel of his own time. The prophecy, as will be more fully confirmed as we proceed, is directly Messianic; it is a divine prophecy within human limits.
TWO OMENS OF THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE ISAIAH. 8:1-2
In the midst of the Syro-Ephraimitish war, which was not yet at an end, Isaiah received instructions from God to perform a singular prophetic action. Vv. 1, 2. “Then Jehovah said to me, Take a large slab, and write upon it with common strokes, ‘In Speed Spoil, Booty hastens;’ and I will take to me trustworthy witnesses, Uriyah the priest, and Zecharyahu the son of Yeberechyahu.” The slab or table (cf., Isa 3:23, where the same word is used to signify a metal mirror) was to be large, to produce the impression of a monument; and the writing upon it was to be “a man’s pen” (cheret ‘enoosh), i.e., written in the vulgar, and, so to speak, popular character, consisting of inartistic strokes that could be easily read (vid., Rev 13:18; 21:17). Philip d’Aquin, in his Lexicon, adopts the explanation, “Enosh-writing, i.e., hieroglyphic writing, so called because it was first introduced in the time of Enosh.” Luzzatto renders it, a lettere cubitali; but the reading for this would be b’cheret ammath ‘ish. The only true rendering is stylo vulgari (see Ges. Thes. s.v. ‘enosh).
The words to be written are introduced with Lamed, to indicate dedication (as in Ezek 37:16), or the object to which the inscription was dedicated or applied, as if it read, “A table devoted to ‘Spoil very quickly, booty hastens;’ “ unless, indeed, l’maheer is to be taken as a fut. instans, as it is by Luzzatto-after Gen 15:12; Josh 2:5; Hab 1:17-in the sense of acceleratura sunt spolia, or (what the position of the words might more naturally suggest) with maheer in a transitive sense, as in the construction r[æB; hy;h; , and others, accelerationi spolia, i.e., they are ready for hastening. Most of the commentators have confused the matter here by taking the words as a proper name (Ewald, §288, c), which they were not at first, though they became so afterwards. At first they were an oracular announcement of the immediate future, accelerant spolia, festinat praeda (spoil is quick, booty hastens). Spoil; booty; but who would the vanquished be? Jehovah knew, and His prophet knew, although not initiated into the policy of Ahaz. But their knowledge was studiously veiled in enigmas.
For the writing was not to disclose anything to the people. It was simply to serve as a public record of the fact, that the course of events was one that Jehovah had foreseen and indicated beforehand. And when what was written upon the table should afterwards take place, they would know that it was the fulfilment of what had already been written, and therefore was an event pre-determined by God. For this reason Jehovah took to Himself witnesses. There is no necessity to read `dW[ (and I had it witnessed), as Knobel and others do; nor `dW[ (and have it witnessed), as the Sept., Targum, Syriac, and Hitzig do. Jehovah said what He would do; and the prophet knew, without requiring to be told, that it was to be accomplished instrumentally through him. Uriah was no doubt the priest (Urijah), who afterwards placed himself at the service of Ahaz to gratify his heathenish desires (2 Kings 16:10ff.). Zechariah ben Yeberechyahu (Berechiah) was of course not the prophet of the times after the captivity, but possibly the Asaphite mentioned in 2 Chron 29:13. He is not further known to us. In good editions, ben is not followed by makkeph, but marked with mercha, according to the Masora at Gen 30:19. These two men were reliable witnesses, being persons of great distinction, and their testimony would weigh with the people. When the time should arrive that the history of their own times solved the riddle of this inscription, these two men were to tell the people how long ago the prophet had written that down in his prophetic capacity.
But something occurred in the meantime whereby the place of the lifeless table was taken by a more eloquent and living one. Vv., 3, 4. “And I drew near to the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son: and Jehovah said to me, Call his name In-speed-spoil-booty-hastens (Maher-shalal-hashbaz): for before the boy shall know how to cry, My father, and my mother, they will carry away the riches of Damascus, and the spoil of Samaria, before the king of Asshur.” To his son Shear-yashub, in whose name the law of the history of Israel, as revealed to the prophet on the occasion of his call (ch. 6), viz., the restoration of only a remnant of the whole nation, had been formulated, there was now added a second son, to whom the inscription upon the table was given as a name (with a small abbreviation, and if the Lamed is the particle of dedication, a necessary one). He was therefore the symbol of the approaching chastisement of Syria and the kingdom of the ten tribes.
Before the boy had learned to stammer out the name of father and mother, they would carry away (yissâ’, not the third pers. fut. niphal, which is yinnâsee’, but kal with a latent, indefinite subject hannoosee’: Ges. §137, 3) the treasures of Damascus and the trophies (i.e., the spoil taken from the flying or murdered foe) of Samaria before the king of Asshur, who would therefore leave the territory of the two capitals as a conqueror. It is true that Tiglath-pileser only conquered Damascus, and not Samaria; but he took from Pekah, the king of Samaria, the land beyond the Jordan, and a portion of the land on this side. The trophies, which he took thence to Assyria, were no less the spoil of Samaria than if he had conquered Samaria itself (which Shalmanassar did twenty years afterwards). The birth of Mahershalal took place about three-quarters of a year later than the preparation of the table (as the verb vâ’ekrab is an aorist and not a pluperfect); and the time appointed, from the birth of the boy till the chastisement of the allied kingdoms, was about a year.
Now, as the Syro-Ephraimitish war did not commence later than the first year of the reign of Ahaz, i.e., the year 743, and the chastisement by Tiglath-pileser occurred in the lifetime of the allies, whereas Pekah was assassinated in the year 739, the interval between the commencement of the war and the chastisement of the allies cannot have been more than three years; so that the preparation of the table must not be assigned to a much later period than the interview with Ahaz. The inscription upon the table, which was adopted as the name of the child, was not a purely consolatory prophecy, since the prophet had predicted, a short time before, that the same Asshur which devastated the two covenant lands would lay Judah waste as well. It was simply a practical proof of the omniscience and omnipotence of God, by which the history of the future was directed and controlled. The prophet had, in fact, the mournful vocation to harden.
Hence the enigmatical character of his words and doings in relation to both kings and nation. Jehovah foreknew the consequences which would follow the appeal to Asshur for help, as regarded both Syria and Israel. This knowledge he committed to writing in the presence of witnesses. When this should be fulfilled, it would be all over with the rejoicing of the king and people at their self-secured deliverance.
But Isaiah was not merely within the broader circle of an incorrigible nation ripe for judgment. He did not stand alone; but was encircled by a small band of believing disciples, who wanted consolation, and were worthy of it. It was to them that the more promising obverse of the prophecy of Immanuel belonged. Mahershalal could not comfort them; for they knew that when Asshur had done with Damascus and Samaria, the troubles of Judah would not be over, but would only then be really about to commence. To be the shelter of the faithful in the terrible judicial era of the imperial power, which was then commencing, was the great purpose of the prediction of Immanuel; and to bring out and expand the consolatory character of that prophecy for the benefit of believers, was the design of the addresses which follow. ESOTERIC ADDRESSES A. CONSOLATION OF IMMANUEL IN THE COMING DARKNESS ISAIAH 8:5-7 The heading or introduction, “And Jehovah proceeded still further to speak to me, as follows,” extends to all the following addresses as far as ch. 12.
They all finish with consolation. But consolation presupposes the need of consolation. Consequently, even in this instance the prophet is obliged to commence with a threatening of judgment. Vv. 6, 7. “Forasmuch as this people despiseth the waters of Siloah that go softly, and regardeth as a delight the alliance with Rezin and the son of Remalyahu, therefore, behold! the Lord of all bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, the mighty and the great, the king of Asshur and all his military power; and he riseth over all his channels, and goeth over all his banks.” The Siloah had its name (Shiloach, or, according to the reading of this passage contained in very good MSS, Shilloach), ab emittendo, either in an infinitive sense, “shooting forth,” or in a participial sense, with a passive colouring, emissus, sent forth, spirted out (vid., John 9:7; and on the variations in meaning of this substantive form, Concord. p. 1349, s.).
Josephus places the fountain and pool of Siloah at the opening of the Tyropoeon, on the south-eastern side of the ancient city, where we still find it at the present day (vid., Jos. Wars of the Jews, v. 4, 1; also Robinson, Pal. i. 504). The clear little brook-a pleasant sight to the eye as it issues from the ravine which runs between the south-western slope of Moriah and the south-eastern slope of Mount Zion (v. Schulbert, Reise, ii. 573)-is used here as a symbol of the Davidic monarchy enthroned upon Zion, which had the promise of God, who was enthroned upon Moriah, in contrast with the imperial or world kingdom, which is compared to the overflowing waters of the Euphrates. The reproach of despising the waters of Siloah applied to Judah as well as Ephraim: to the former because it trusted in Asshur, and despised the less tangible but more certain help which the house of David, if it were but believing, had to expect from the God of promise; to the latter, because it had entered into alliance with Aram to overthrow the house of David; and yet the house of David, although degenerate and deformed, was the divinely appointed source of that salvation, which is ever realized through quiet, secret ways.
The second reproach applied more especially to Ephraim. The ‘eth is not to be taken as the sign of the accusative, for suus never occurs with the accusative of the object (not even in Isa 35:1), and could not well be so used. It is to be construed as a preposition in the sense of “and (or because) delight (is felt) with (i.e., in) the alliance with Rezin and Pekah.” (On the constructive before a preposition, see Ges. §116, 1: suus ‘eeth, like râtzâh ‘im.) Luzzatto compares, for the construction, Gen 41:43, v’nâthoon; but only the inf. abs. is used in this way as a continuation of the finite verb (see Ges. §131, 4, a). Moreover, cwOcm; is not an Aramaic infinitive, but a substantive used in such a way as to retain the power of the verb (like [Sæmæ in Num 10:2, and rp;s]mi in Num 23:10, unless, indeed, the reading here should be rpæs; ymi ).
The substantive clause is preferred to the verbal clause cWc , for the sake of the antithetical consonance of cwOcm; with sam . It is also quite in accordance with Hebrew syntax, that an address which commences with yKi ˆ[æyæ should here lose itself in the second sentence “in the twilight,” as Ewald expresses it (§351, c), of a substantive clause. Knobel and others suppose the reproof to relate to dissatisfied Judaeans, who were secretly favourable to the enterprise of the two allied kings. But there is no further evidence that there were such persons; and v. 8 is opposed to this interpretation. The overflowing of the Assyrian forces would fall first of all upon Ephraim. The threat of punishment is introduced with ˆKe , the Vav being the sign of sequence (Ewald, §348, b). The words “the king of Asshur” are the prophet’s own gloss, as in Isa 7:17,20.
Not till then would this overflowing reach as far as Judah, but then it would do so most certainly and incessantly. V. 8. “And presses forward into Judah, overflows and pours onward, till it reaches to the neck, and the spreading out of its wings fill the breadth of thy land, Immanuel.” The fate of Judah would be different from that of Ephraim. Ephraim would be laid completely under water by the river, i.e., would be utterly destroyed. And in Judah the stream, as it rushed forward, would reach the most dangerous height; but if a deliverer could be found, there was still a possibility of its being saved. Such a deliverer was Immanuel, whom the prophet sees in the light of the Spirit living through all the Assyrian calamities. The prophet appeals complainingly to him that the land, which is his land, is almost swallowed up by the world-power: the spreadings out (muttoth, a hophal noun: for similar substantive forms, see v. 23; Isa 14:6; 29:3, and more especially Ps 66:11) of the wings of the stream (i.e., of the large bodies of water pouring out on both sides from the main stream, as from the trunk, and covering the land like two broad wings) have filled the whole land.
According to Norzi, Immanuël is to be written here as one word, as it is in Isa 7:14; but the correct reading is ‘Immânu El, with mercha silluk (see note on ch. 7:14), though it does not therefore cease to be a proper name.
As Jerome observes, it is nomen proprium, non interpretatum; and so it is rendered in the Sept., Meq> hJmw>n oJ Qeo>v .
The prophet’s imploring look at Immanuel does not remain unanswered.
We may see this from the fact, that what was almost a silent prayer is changed at once into the jubilate of holy defiance.-Vv. 9, 10. “Exasperate yourselves, O nations, and go to pieces; and see it, all who are far off in the earth! Gird yourselves, and go to pieces; gird yourselves, and go to pieces!
Consult counsel, and it comes to nought; speak the word, and it is not realized: for with us is God.” The second imperatives in v. 9 are threatening words of authority, having a future signification, which change into futures in v. 19 (Ges. §130, 2): Go on exasperating yourselves [[ær; with the tone upon the penultimate, and therefore not the pual of [ræ , consociari, which is the rendering adopted in the Targum, but the kal of [[ær; , malum esse; not vociferari, for which [ræG; , a different verb from the same root, is commonly employed), go on arming; ye will nevertheless fall to pieces (choottu, from châthath, related to câthath, confringi, consternari). The prophet classes together all the nations that are warring against the people of God, pronounces upon them the sentence of destruction, and calls upon all distant lands to hear this ultimate fate of the kingdom of the world, i.e., of the imperial power. The world-kingdom must be wrecked on the land of Immanuel; “for with us,” as the watchword of believers runs, pointing to the person of the Savour, “with us is God.” ISAIAH 8:11-12 There then follows in v. 11 an explanatory clause, which seems at first sight to pass on to a totally different theme, but it really stands in the closest connection with the triumphant words of vv. 9, 10. It is Immanuel whom believers receive, constitute, and hold fast as their refuge in the approaching times of the Assyrian judgment. He is their refuge and God in Him, and not any human support whatever. This is the link of connection with vv. 11, 12: “For Jehovah hath spoken thus to me, overpowering me with God’s hand, and instructing me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, Call ye not conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy; and what is feared by it, fear ye not, neither think ye dreadful.” dy; , “the hand,” is the absolute hand, which is no sooner laid upon a man than it overpowers all perception, sensation, and though: chezkath hayyâd (viz., ‘âlai, upon me, Ezek 3:14) therefore describes a condition in which the hand of God was put forth upon the prophet with peculiar force, as distinguished from the more usual prophetic state, the effect of a peculiarly impressive and energetic act of God. Luther is wrong in following the Syriac, and adopting the rendering, “taking me by the hand;” as chezkath points back to the kal (invalescere), and not to the hiphil (apprehendere).
It is this circumstantial statement, which is continued in v’yissereni (“and instructing me”), and not the leading verb ‘âmar (“he said”); for the former is not the third pers. pret. piel, which would be v’yisserani, but the third pers. fut. kal, from the future form yissoor (Hos 10:10, whereas the fut. piel is v’yasseer); and it is closely connected with chezkath hayyâd, according to the analogy of the change from the participial and infinitive construction to the finite verb (Ges. §132, Anm. 2). With this overpowering influence, and an instructive warning against going in the way of “this people,” Jehovah spake to the prophet as follows. With regard to the substance of the following warning, the explanation that has been commonly adopted since the time of Jerome, viz., noli duorum regum timere conjurationem (fear not the conspiracy of the two kings), is contrary to the reading of the words.
The warning runs thus: The prophet, and such as were on his side, were not to call that kesher which the great mass of the people called kesher (cf., 2 Chron 23:13, “She said, Treason, Treason!” kesher, kesher); yet the alliance of Rezin and Pekah was really a conspiracy-a league against the house and people of David. Nor can the warning mean that believers, when they saw how the unbelieving Ahaz brought the nation into distress, were not to join in a conspiracy against the person of the king (Hofmann, Drechsler); they are not warned at all against making a conspiracy, but against joining in the popular cry when the people called out kesher. The true explanation has been given by Roorda, viz., that the reference is to the conspiracy, as it was called, of the prophet and his disciples “(sermo hic est de conjuratione, quae dicebatur prophetae et discipulorum ejus”). The same thing happened to Isaiah as to Amos (Amos 7:10) and to Jeremiah.
Whenever the prophets were at all zealous in their opposition to the appeal for foreign aid, they were accused and branded as standing in the service of the enemy, and conspiring for the overthrow of the kingdom. In such perversion of language as this, the honourable among them were not to join. The way of God was now a very different one from the way of that people. If the prophet and his followers opposed the alliance with Asshur, this was not a common human conspiracy against the will of the king and nation, but the inspiration of God, the true policy of Jehovah. Whoever trusted in Him had no need to be afraid of such attempts as those of Rezin and Pekah, or to look upon them as dreadful.
The object of their fear was a very different one. Vv. 13-15. “Jehovah of hosts, sanctify Him; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your terror.
So will He become a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence (vexation) to both the houses of Israel, a snare and trap to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and shall fall; and be dashed to pieces, and be snared and taken.” The logical apodosis to v. 13 commences with v’hâhâh (so shall He be). If ye actually acknowledge Jehovah the Holy One as the Holy One (hikdiish, as in Isa 29:23), and if it is He whom ye fear, and who fills you with dread (ma’ariitz, used for the object of dread, as moorah is for the object of fear; hence “that which terrifies” in a causative sense), He will become a mikdâsh. The word mikdâsh may indeed denote the object sanctified, and so Knobel understands it here according to Num 18:29; but if we adhere to the strict notion of the word, this gives an unmeaning apodosis.
Mikdâsh generally means the sanctified place or sanctuary, with which the idea of an asylum would easily associate itself, since even among the Israelites the temple was regarded and respected as an asylum (1 Kings 1:50; 2:28). This is the explanation which most of the commentators have adopted here; and the punctuators also took it in the same sense, when they divided the two halves of v. 14 by athnach as antithetical. And mikdâsh is really to be taken in this sense, although it cannot be exactly rendered “asylum,” since this would improperly limit the meaning of the word. The temple was not only a place of shelter, but also of grace, blessing, and peace. All who sanctified the Lord of lords He surrounded like temple walls; hid them in Himself, whilst death and tribulation reigned without, and comforted, fed, and blessed them in His own gracious fellowship. This is the true explanation of v’hâyâh l’mikdâsh, according to such passages as Isa 4:5-6; Ps 27:5; 31:21. To the two houses of Israel, on the contrary, i.e., to the great mass of the people of both kingdoms who neither sanctified nor feared Jehovah, He would be a rock and snare. The synonyms are intentionally heaped together (cf., Isa 28:13), to produce the fearful impression of death occurring in many forms, but all inevitable. The first three verbs of v. 15 refer to the “stone” (‘eben) and “rock” (tzuur); the last two to the “snare” (pach), and “trap” or springe (mookeesh). f47 All who did not give glory to Jehovah would be dashed to pieces upon His work as upon a stone, and caught therein as in a trap. This was the burden of the divine warning, which the prophet heard for himself and for those that believed.
The words that follow in v. 16, “Bind up the testimony, seal the lesson in my disciples,” appear at first sight to be a command of God to the prophet, according to such parallel passages as Dan 12:4,9; Rev 22:10, cf., Dan 8:26; but with this explanation it is impossible to do justice to the words “in my disciples” (b’limmudâi). The explanation given by Rosenmüller, Knobel, and others, viz., “by bringing in men divinely instructed” (adhibitis viris piis et sapientibus), is grammatically inadmissible. Consequently I agree with Vitringa, Drechsler, and others, in regarding v. 16 as the prophet’s own prayer to Jehovah. We tie together rræx; , imperf. rxo = rxo ) what we wish to keep from getting separated and lost; we seal (châtham) what is to be kept secret, and only opened by a person duly qualified. And so the prophet here prays that Jehovah would take his testimony with regard to the future, and his instruction, which was designed to prepare for this future-that testimony and thorah which the great mass in their hardness did not understand, and in their self-hardening despised-and lay them up well secured and well preserved, as if by band and seal, in the hearts of those who received the prophet’s words with believing obedience (limmuud, as in Isa 50:4; 54:13). For it would be all over with Israel, unless a community of believers should be preserved, and all over with this community, if the word of God, which was the ground of their life, should be allowed to slip from their hearts. We have here an announcement of the grand idea, which the second part of the book of Isaiah carries out in the grandest style. It is very evident that it is the prophet himself who is speaking here, as we may see from v. 17, where he continues to speak in the first person, though he does not begin with ynæa .
Whilst offering this prayer, and looking for its fulfilment, he waits upon Jehovah. V. 17. “And I wait upon Jehovah, who hides His face before the house of Jacob, and hope for Him.” A time of judgment had now commenced, which would still last a long time; but the word of God was the pledge of Israel’s continuance in the midst of it, and of the renewal of Israel’s glory afterwards. The prophet would therefore hope for the grace which was now hidden behind the wrath.
His home was the future, and to this he was subservient, even with all his house. V. 18. “Behold, I and the children which Jehovah hath given me for signs and types in Israel, from Jehovah of hosts, who dwelleth upon Mount Zion.” He presents himself to the Lord with his children, puts himself and them into His hands. They were Jehovah’s gift, and that for a higher purpose than every-day family enjoyment. They subserved the purpose of signs and types in connection with the history of salvation. “Signs and types:” ‘oth (sign) was an omen or prognostic ( shmei>on ) in word and deed, which pointed to and was the pledge of something future (whether it were in itself miraculous or natural); mopheth was either something miraculous ( te>rav ) pointing back to a supernatural cause, or a type ( tu>pov , prodigium = porridigium) which pointed beyond itself to something future and concealed, literally twisted round, i.e., out of the ordinary course, paradoxical, striking, standing out (Arab. aft, ift, res mira, deino>n ti ), from hp;n; (related to Ëpæh; , Ëbæa; ) = tpewOm , like rsewOm = mo’ceer. His children were signs and enigmatical symbols of the future, and that from Jehovah of hosts who dwelt on Zion. In accordance with His counsel (to which the `µ[i in `µ[i points), He had selected these signs and types: He who could bring to pass the future, which they set forth, as surely as He was Jehovah of hosts, and who would bring it to pass as surely as He had chosen Mount Zion for the scene of His gracious presence upon earth.
Shear-yashub and Mahershalal were indeed no less symbols of future wrath than of future grace; but the name of the father (Yesha’hâhu) was an assurance that all the future would issue from Jehovah’s salvation, and end in the same. Isaiah and his children were figures and emblems of redemption, opening a way for itself through judgment. The Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb 2:13) quotes these words as the distinct words of Jesus, because the spirit of Jesus was in Isaiah-the spirit of Jesus, which in the midst of this holy family, bound together as it was only to the bands of “the shadow,” pointed forward to that church of the New Testament which would be found together by the bands of the true substance. Isaiah, his children, and his wife, who is called “the prophetess” ( nebi>a ) not only because she was the wife of the prophet but because she herself possessed the gift of prophecy, and all the believing disciples gathered round this family-these together formed the stock of the church of the Messianic future, on the foundation and soil of the existing massa perdita of Israel.
It is to this ecclesiola in ecclesia that the prophet’s admonition is addressed. V. 19. “And when they shall say to you, Inquire of the necromancers, and of the soothsayers that chirp and whisper:-Should not a people inquire of its God? for the living to the dead?” The appeal is supposed to be made by Judaeans of the existing stamp; for we know from Isa 2:6; 3:2-3, that all kinds of heathen superstitions had found their way into Jerusalem, and were practised there as a trade. The persons into whose mouths the answer is put by the prophet (we may supply before v. 19b, “Thus shall ye say to them;” cf., Jer 10:11), are his own children and disciples. The circumstances of the times were very critical; and the people were applying to wizards to throw light upon the dark future. ‘Ob signified primarily the spirit of witchcraft, then the possessor of such a spirit (equivalent to Baal ob), more especially the necromancer. Yidd’oni, on the other hand, signified primarily the possessor of a prophesying or soothsaying spirit ( pu>qwn or pneu>ma tou> pu>qwnov ), Syr. yodûa’ (after the intensive from pâ’ul with immutable vowels), and then the soothsaying spirit itself (Lev 20:27), which was properly called yiddâ’oon (the much knowing), like dai>mwn , which, according to Plato, is equivalent to dah>mwn . These people, who are designated by the LXX, both here and elsewhere, as eggastro>muqoi , i.e., ventriloquists, imitated the chirping of bats, which was supposed to proceed from the shadows of Hades, and uttered their magical formulas in a whispering tone. f48 What an unnatural thing, for the people of Jehovah to go and inquire, not of their won God, but of such heathenish and demoniacal deceivers and victims as these (dârash ‘el, to go and inquire of a person, Isa 11:10, synonymous with shâ’al b’, 1 Sam 28:6)! What blindness, to consult the dead in the interests of the living! By “the dead” (hammeethim) we are not to understand “the idols” in this passage, as in Ps 106:28, but the departed, as Deut 18:11 (cf., 1 Sam 28) clearly proves; and d[æB] is not to be taken, either here or elsewhere, as equivalent to tachath (“instead of”), as Knobel supposes, but, as in Jer 21:2 and other passages, as signifying “for the benefit of.” Necromancy, which makes the dead the instructors of the living, is a most gloomy deception.
The night of despair to which the unbelieving nation would be brought, is described in vv. 21, 22: “And it goes about therein hard pressed and hungry: and it comes to pass, when hunger befals it, it frets itself, and curses by its king and by its God, and turns its face upward, and looks to the earth, and beyond distress and darkness, benighting with anguish, and thrust out into darkness.” The singulars attach themselves to the ttæK; in v. 19, which embraces all the unbelievers in one mass; “therein” (bâh) refers to the self-evident land (‘eretz). The people would be brought to such a plight in the approaching Assyrian oppressions, that they would wander about in the land pressed down by their hard fate (niksheh) and hungry (râ’eb), because all provisions would be gone and the fields and vineyards would be laid waste. As often as it experienced hunger afresh, it would work itself into a rage (v’hithkazzaqph with Vav apod. and pathach, according to Ges. §54, Anm.), and curse by its king and God, i.e., by its idol.
This is the way in which we must explain the passage, in accordance with Sam 14:43, where killel beeholim is equivalent to killel b’sheem elohim, and with Zeph 1:5, where a distinction is made between an oath layehovâh, and an oath b’malcâm; if we would adhere to the usage of the language, in which we never find a b] llq corresponding to the Latin execrari in aliquem (Ges.), but on the contrary the object cursed is always expressed in the accusative. We must therefore give up Ps 5:3 and 68:25 as parallels to b’malco and beelohâiv: they curse by the idol, which passes with them for both king and God, curse their wretched fate with this as they suppose the most effectual curse of all, without discerning in it the just punishment of their own apostasy, and humbling themselves penitentially under the almighty hand of Jehovah. Consequently all this reaction of their wrath would avail them nothing: whether they turned upwards, to see if the black sky were not clearing, or looked down to the earth, everywhere there would meet them nothing but distress and darkness, nothing but a night of anguish all around (me’uuph zuukâh is a kind of summary; mâ’uuph a complete veiling, or eclipse, written with û instead of the more usual ô of this substantive form: Ewald, §160, a).
The judgment of God does not convert them, but only heightens their wickedness; just as in Rev 16:11,21, after the pouring out of the fifth and seventh vials of wrath, men only utter blasphemies, and do not desist from their works. After stating what the people see, whether they turn their eyes upwards or downwards, the closing participial clause of v. 22 describes how they see themselves “thrust out into darkness’ (in caliginem propulsum). There is no necessity to supply aWh ; but out of the previous hinneeh it is easy to repeat hinno or hinnennu (en ipsum). “Into darkness:” ‘apheelâh (acc. loci) is placed emphatically at the head, as in Jer 23:12.
After the prophet has thus depicted the people as without morning dawn, he gives the reason for the assumption that a restoration of light is to be expected, although not for the existing generation. Ch. Isa 9:1. “For it does not remain dark where there is now distress: in the first time He brought into disgrace the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and in the last He brings to honour the road by the sea, the other side of Jordan, the circle of the Gentiles.” yKi is neither to be taken as equivalent to the untranslatable oJ>ti recitativum (Knobel), nor is there any necessity to translate it “but” or “nevertheless,” and supply the clause, “it will not remain so.” The reason assigned for the fact that the unbelieving people of Judah had fallen into a night without morning, is, that there was a morning coming, whose light, however, would not rise upon the land of Judah first, but upon other parts of the land.
Muu’âph and muuzâk are hophal nouns: a state of darkness and distress.
The meaning is, There is not, i.e., there will not remain, a state of darkness over the land (lâh, like bâh in Isa 8:21, refers to ‘eretz), which is now in a state of distress; but those very districts which God has hitherto caused to suffer deep humiliation He will bring to honour by and by (heekal = heekeel, according to Ges. §67, Anm. 3, opp. hicbiid, as in Isa 23:9). The height of the glorification would correspond to the depth of the disgrace.
We cannot adopt Knobel’s rendering, “as at a former time,” etc., taking `t[e as an accusative of time and k] as equivalent to rv,a , for k¦ is never used conjunctionally in this way (see Psalter, i. 301, and ii. 514); and in the examples adduced by Knobel (viz., Isa 61:11 and Job 7:2), the verbal clauses after Caph are elliptical relative clauses.
The rendering adopted by Rosenmüller and others (sicut tempus prius vilem reddidit, etc., “as a former time brought it into contempt”) is equally wrong. And Ewald, again, is not correct in taking the Vav in v’hâacharoon as the Vav of sequence used in the place of the ceen of comparison. ˆwOvari `t[e and ˆwrjah are both definitions of time. The prophet intentionally indicates the time of disgrace with k¦, because this would extend over a lengthened period, in which the same fate would occur again and again. The time of glorification, on the other hand, is indicated by the accus. temporis, because it would occur but once, and then continue in perpetuity and without change. It is certainly possible that the prophet may have regarded hâ-acharoon as the subject; but this would destroy the harmony of the antithesis. By the land or territory of Naphtali (‘artzâh, poet. for ‘eretz, as in Job 34:13; 37:12, with a toneless ah) we are to understand the upper Galilee of later times, and by the land of Zebulun lower Galilee. In the antithetical parallel clause, what is meant by the two lands is distinctly specified: (1) “the road by the sea,” derek hayyâm, the tract of land on the western shore of the sea of Chinnereth; (2) “the other side of Jordan,” ‘eeber hayyardeen, the country to the east of the Jordan; (3) “the circle of the Gentiles,” geliil haggooyim, the northernmost border-land of Palestine, only a portion of the so-called Galilaea of after times.
Ever since the times of the judges, all these lands had been exposed, on account of the countries that joined them, to corruption from Gentile influence and subjugation by heathen foes. The northern tribes on this side, as well as those on the other side, suffered the most in the almost incessant war between Israel and the Syrians, and afterwards between Israel and the Assyrians; and the transportation of their inhabitants, which continued under Pul, Tiglath-pileser, and Shalmanassar, amounted at last to utter depopulation (Caspari, Beitr. 116-118). But these countries would be the very first that would be remembered when that morning dawn of glory should break. Matthew informs us (Isa 4:13ff.) in what way this was fulfilled at the commencement of the Christian times. On the ground of this prophecy of Isaiah, and not of a “somewhat mistaken exposition of it,” as Renan maintains in his Vie de Jesus (ch. 13), the Messianic hopes of the Jewish nation were really directed towards Galilee. f49 It is true that, according to Jerome, in loc., the Nazarenes supposed Isa 9:1b to refer to the light of the gospel spread by the preaching of Paul in terminos gentium et viam universi maris. But “the sea” (hayyâm) cannot possibly be understood as referring to the Mediterranean, as Meier and Hofmann suppose, for “the way of the sea” (derek hayyâm) would in that case have been inhabited by the Philistines and Phoenicians; whereas the prophet’s intention was evidently to mention such Israelitish provinces as had suffered the greatest affliction and degradation.
The range of vision is first widened in v. 2.: “The people that walk about in darkness see a great light; they who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light shines.” The range of vision is here extended; not to the Gentiles, however, but to all Israel. Salvation would not break forth till it had become utterly dark along the horizon of Israel, according to the description in Isa 5:30, i.e., till the land of Jehovah had become a land of the shadow of death on account of the apostasy of its inhabitants from Jehovah (zalmâveth is modified, after the manner of a composite noun, from zalmuuth, according to the form kadruuth, and is derived from tslm, Aeth. salema, Arab. zalima, to be dark). f50 The apostate mass of the nation is to be regarded as already swept away; for if death has cast its shadow over the land, it must be utterly desolate. In this state of things the remnant left in the land beholds a great light, which breaks through the sky that has been hitherto covered with blackness. The people, who turned their eyes upwards to no purpose, because they did so with cursing (Isa 8:21), are now no more. It is the remnant of Israel which sees this light of spiritual and material redemption arise above its head. In what this light would consist the prophet states afterwards, when describing first the blessings and then the star of the new time.
In v. 3 he says, in words of thanksgiving and praise: “Thou multipliest the nation, preparest it great joy; they rejoice before Thee like the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they share the spoil.” “The nation” (haggoi) is undoubtedly Israel, reduced to a small remnant. That God would make this again into a numerous people, was a leading feature in the pictures drawn of the time of glory (Isa 26:15; 66:8; Zech 14:10-11), which would be in this respect the counterpart of that of Solomon (1 Kings 4:20). If our explanation is the correct one so far, the only way to give an intelligible meaning to the chethib alo , taking it in a negative sense, is to render it, as Hengstenberg, Hitzig, and others have done, “Thou multipliest the nation to which Thou hadst formerly not given great joy,” which must signify, per litoten, “the nation which Thou hadst plunged into deep sorrow.”
But it is unnatural to take any one of the prophetic preterites, commencing with hicbiid in v. 1, in any other than a future sense. We must therefore give the preference to the keri ttæK; , and render it, “Thou makest of the nation a great multitude, and preparest it great joy.” The pronoun loo is written first, as in Lev 7:7-9; Job 41:4 (keri), probably with the emphasis assumed by Drechsler: “to it, in which there was not the smallest indication of such an issue as this.” The verbs “multiplied” (higdaltâ) and “increased” (hirbithâ) are intentionally written together, to put the intensity of the joy on a level with the extensiveness of the multitude. This joy would be a holy joy, as the expression “before Thee” implies: the expression itself recals the sacrificial meals in the courts of the temple (Deut 12:7; 14:26). It would be a joy over blessings received, as the figure of the harvest indicates; and joy over evil averted, as the figure of dividing the spoil presupposes: for the division of booty is the business of conquerors. This second figure is not merely a figure: the people that are so joyous are really victorious and triumphant.
“For the yoke of its burden and the stick of its neck, the stick of its oppressor, Thou hast broken to splinters, as in the day of Midian.” The suffixes refer to the people (hâ’âm). Instead of sobloo, from soobel, we have intentionally the more musical form lb,so (with dagesh dirimens and chateph kametz under the influence of the previous u instead of the simple sheva). The rhythm of the verse of anapaestic. “Its burden” (subbolo) and “its oppressor” (nogees boo) both recal to mind the Egyptian bondage (Ex 2:11; 5:6). The future deliverance, which the prophet here celebrates, would be the counterpart of the Egyptian. But as the whole of the great nation of Israel was then redeemed, whereas only a small remnant would participate in the final redemption, he compares it to the day of Midian, when Gideon broke the seven years’ dominion of Midian, not with a great army, but with a handful of resolute warriors, strong in the Lord (Judg 7).
The question suggests itself here, Who is the hero, Gideon’s antitype, through whom all this is to occur? The prophet does not say; but building up one clause upon another with yKi , he gives first of all the reason for the cessation of the oppressive dominion of the imperial power-namely, the destruction of all the military stores of the enemy.
“For every boot of those who tramp with boots in the tumult of battle, and cloak rolled in blood, shall be for burning, a food of fire.” That which is the food of fire becomes at the same time a sereephâh, inasmuch as the devouring fire reduces it to ashes, and destroys its previous existence. This closing statement requires for ˆwOas] the concrete sense of a combustible thing; and this precludes such meanings as business (Handel und Wandel), noise, or din (= ˆwOav; , Jerome, Syriac, Rashi, and others). On the other hand, the meaning “military equipment,” adopted by Knobel and others-a meaning derived from a comparison of the derivatives of the Aramaean zuun, azan, and the Arabic zâna, fut. yezîn (to dress or equip)-would be quite admissible; at the same time, the interchange of Samech and Zain in this word cannot be dialectically established. Jos. Kimchi has very properly referred to the Targum seen, mesân (Syr. also sâûn with an essentially long a), which signifies shoe (see Bynaeus, de calceo Hebraeorum)-a word which is more Aramaean than Hebrew, and the use of which in the present connection might be explained on the ground that the prophet had in his mind the annihilation of the Assyrian forces. We should no doubt expect sâ’ûn (sandaloumenos) instead of soo’een; but the denom. verb sâ’an might be applied to a soldier’s coming up in military boots, and so signify caligatum venire, although the primary meaning is certainly calceare se (e.g., Eph 6:15, Syr.). Accordingly we should render it, “every boot of him who comes booted (des Einherstiefelnden) into the tumult of battle,” taking the word ra’ash, not as Drechsler does, in the sense of the noise made by a warrior coming up proudly in his war-boots, nor with Luzzatto in the sense of the war-boot itself, for which the word is too strong, but as referring to the noise or tumult of battle (as in Jer 10:22), in the midst of which the man comes up equipped or shod for military service. The prophet names the boot and garment with an obvious purpose. The destruction of the hostile weapons follows as a matter of course, if even the military shoes, worn by the soldiers in the enemies’ ranks, and the military cloaks that were lying in dâmim, i.e., in blood violently shed upon the battle-field, were all given up to the fire.
Upon the two sentences with ci the prophet now builds a third. The reason for the triumph is the deliverance effected; and the reason for the deliverance, the destruction of the foe; and the reason for all the joy, all the freedom, all the peace, is the new great King.-V. 6. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government rests upon His shoulder: and they call His name, Wonder, Counsellor, mighty God, Eternal-Father, Prince of Peace.” The same person whom the prophet foretold in ch. 7 as the son of the virgin who would come to maturity in troublous times, he here sees as born, and as having already taken possession of the government. There he appeared as a sign, here as a gift of grace. The prophet does not expressly say that he is a son of David in this instance any more than in ch. 7 (for the remark that has been recently made, that yeled is used here for “infant-prince,” is absurd); but this followed as a matter of course, from the fact that he was to bear the government, with all its official rights (Isa 22:22) and godlike majesty (Ps 21:6), upon his shoulder; for the inviolable promise of eternal sovereignty, of which the new-born infant was to be the glorious fulfilment, had been bound up with the seed of David in the course of Israel’s history ever since the declaration in 2 Sam 7.
In ch. 7 it is the mother who names the child; here it is the people, or indeed any one who rejoices in him: ar;q; , “one calls, they call, he is called,” as Luther has correctly rendered it, though under the mistaken idea that the Jews had altered the original ar;q; into ar;q; , for the purpose of eliminating the Messianic sense of the passage. But the active verb itself has really been twisted by Jewish commentators in this way; so that Rashi, Kimchi, Malbim, and others follow the Targum, and explain the passage as meaning, “the God, who is called and is Wonder,’ Counsellor, the mighty God, the eternal Father, calls his name the Prince of Peace;” but this rendering evidently tears asunder things that are closely connected. And Luzzatto has justly observed, that you do not expect to find attributes of God here, but such as would be characteristic of the child.
He therefore renders the passage, “God the mighty, the eternal Father, the Prince of Peace, resolves upon wonderful things,” and persuades himself that this long clause is meant for the proper name of the child, just as in other cases declaratory clauses are made into proper names, e.g., the names of the prophet’s two sons. But even granting that such a sesquipedalian name were possible, in what an unskilful manner would the name be formed, since the long-winded clause, which would necessarily have to be uttered in one breath, would resolve itself again into separate clauses, which are not only names themselves, but, contrary to all expectation, names of God! The motive which prompted Luzzatto to adopt this original interpretation is worthy of notice. He had formerly endeavoured, like other commentators, to explain the passage by taking the words from “Wonderful” to “Prince of Peace” as the name of the child; and in doing this he rendered x[wy alp “one counselling wonderful things,” thus inverting the object, and regarded “mighty God” as well as “eternal Father” as hyperbolical expressions, like the words applied to the King in Ps 45:7a.
But now he cannot help regarding it as absolutely impossible for a human child to be called el gibbor, like God Himself in Isa 10:21. So far as the relation between his novel attempt at exposition and the accentuation is concerned, it certainly does violence to this, though not to such an extent as the other specimen of exegetical leger-demain, which makes the clause from alp to d[Ayba the subject to ar;q; . Nevertheless, in the face of the existing accentuation, we must admit that the latter is, comparatively speaking, the better of the two; for if µWc ar;q; were intended to be the introduction to the list of names which follows, µve would not be pointed with geresh, but with zakeph. The accentuators seem also to have shrunk from taking el gibbor as the name of a man. They insert intermediate points, as though “eternal Father, Prince of Peace,” were the name of the child, and all that precedes, from “Wonder” onwards, the name of God, who would call him by these two honourable names. But, at the very outset, it is improbable that there should be two names instead of one or more; and it is impossible to conceive for what precise reason such a periphrastic description of God should be employed in connection with the naming of this child, as is not only altogether different from Isaiah’s usual custom, but altogether unparalleled in itself, especially without the definite article. The names of God should at least have been defined thus, rwOBGi al,p, x[æy; , so as to distinguish them from the two names of the child.
Even assuming, therefore, that the accentuation is meant to convey this sense, “And the wonderful Counsellor, the mighty God, calls his name Eternal-Father, Prince of Peace,” as appears to be the case; we must necessarily reject it, as resting upon a misunderstanding and misinterpretation. f52 We regard the whole, from alp onwards-as the connection, the expression, and the syntax require-as a dependent accusative predicate to µWc ar;q; (they call his name), which stands at the head (compare ar;q; , they call, it is called, in Gen 11:9; 16:14; Josh 7:26, and above Isa 8:4, ac;n; , they will carry: Ges. §137, 3). If it be urged, as an objection to the Messianic interpretation of Isa 7:14-15, that the Christ who appeared was not named Immanuel, but Jesus, this objection is sufficiently met by the fact that He did not receive as a proper name any one of the five names by which, according to this second prophecy, He was to be called. Moreover, this objection would apply quite as strongly to the notion, which has been a very favourite one with Jewish commentators (e.g., Rashi, A. E. Kimchi, Abravanel, Malbim, Luzzatto, and others), and even with certain Christian commentators (such as Grotius, Gesenius, etc.), that the prophecy refers to Hezekiah-a notion which is a disgrace to those who thereby lead both themselves and others astray.
For even if the hopes held out in the prophecy were attached for a long time to Hezekiah, the mistake was but too quickly discovered; whereas the commentators in question perpetuate the mistake, by forcing it upon the prophecy itself, although the prophet, even after the deception had been outlived, not only did not suppress the prophecy, but handed it down to succeeding ages as awaiting a future and infallible fulfilment. For the words in their strict meaning point to the Messiah, whom men may for a time, with pardonable error, have hoped to find in Hezekiah, but whom, with unpardonable error, men refused to acknowledge, even when He actually appeared in Jesus. The name Jesus is the combination of all the Old Testament titles used to designate the Coming One according to His nature and His works. The names contained in Isa 7:14 and 9:6 are not thereby suppressed; but they have continued, from the time of Mary downwards, in the mouths of all believers. There is not one of these names under which worship and homage have not been paid to Him. But we never find them crowded together anywhere else, as we do here in Isaiah; and in this respect also our prophet proves himself the greatest of the Old Testament evangelists.
The first name is al,p, , or perhaps more correctly pile’, which is not to be taken in connection with the next word, x[æy; , though this construction might seem to commend itself in accordance with `x[e al;p; , in Isa 28:29.
This is the way in which it has been taken by the Seventy and others (thus LXX, qaumasto>v su>mboulov ; Theodoret, qaumastw>v bouleu>wn ). If we adopted this explanation, we might regard x[wy alp as an inverted form for alp x[wy : counselling wonderful things. The possibility of such an inversion is apparent from Isa 22:2, halm twavt , i.e., full of tumult.
Or, following the analogy of pere’ âdâm (a wild man) in Gen 16:12, we might regard it as a genitive construction: a wonder of a counsellor; in which case the disjunctive telishâh gedolâh in pele’ would have to be exchanged for a connecting mahpach. Both combinations have their doubtful points, and, so far as the sense is concerned, would lead us rather to expect hx;[e aylip]mæ ; whereas there is nothing at all to prevent our taking alp and x[wy as two separate names (not even the accentuation, which is without parallel elsewhere, so far as the combination of pashta with telishah is concerned, and therefore altogether unique).
Just as the angel of Jehovah, when asked by Manoah what was his name (Judg 13:18), replied ylip, yail]pi ), and indicated thereby his divine nature-a nature incomprehensible to mortal men; so here the God-given ruler is also pele’, a phenomenon lying altogether beyond human conception or natural occurrence. Not only is this or that wonderful in Him; but He Himself is throughout a wonder- paradoxasmo>v , as Symmachus renders it. The second name if yoo’eetz, counsellor, because, by virtue of the spirit of counsel which He possesses (Isa 11:2), He can always discern and given counsel for the good of His nation. There is no need for Him to surround Himself with counsellors; but without receiving counsel at all, He counsels those that are without counsel, and is thus the end of all want of counsel to His nation as a whole. The third name, El gibbor, attributes divinity to Him. Not, indeed, if we render the words “Strength, Hero,” as Luther does; or “Hero of Strength,” as Meier has done; or “a God of a hero,” as Hofmann proposes; or “Hero-God,” i.e., one who fights and conquers like an invincible god, as Ewald does.
But all these renderings, and others of a similar kind, founder, without needing any further refutation, on Isa 10:21, where He, to whom the remnant of Israel will turn with penitence, is called El gibbor (the mighty God). There is no reason why we should take El in this name of the Messiah in any other sense than in Immanu-El; not to mention the fact that El in Isaiah is always a name of God, and that the prophet was ever strongly conscious of the antithesis between El and âdâm, as Isa 31:3 (cf., Hos 11:9) clearly shows. And finally, El gibbor was a traditional name of God, which occurs as early as Deut 10:17, cf., Jer 32:18; Neh 9:32; Ps 24:8, etc. The name gibbor is used here as an adjective, like shaddai in El shaddai. The Messiah, then, is here designated “mighty God.” Undoubtedly this appears to go beyond the limits of the Old Testament horizon; but what if it should go beyond them?
It stands written once for all, just as in Jer 23:6 Jehovah Zidkenu (Jehovah our Righteousness) is also used as a name of the Messiah-a Messianic name, which even the synagogue cannot set aside (vid., Midrash Mishle 57a, where this is adduced as one of the eight names of the Messiah). Still we must not go too far. If we look at the spirit of the prophecy, the mystery of the incarnation of God is unquestionably indicated in such statements as these. But if we look at the consciousness of the prophet himself, nothing further was involved than this, that the Messiah would be the image of God as no other man ever had been (cf., El, Ps 82:1), and that He would have God dwelling within Him (cf., Jer 33:16). Who else would lead Israel to victory over the hostile world, than God the mighty? The Messiah is the corporeal presence of this mighty God; for He is with Him, He is in Him, and in Him He is with Israel. The expression did not preclude the fact that the Messiah would be God and man in one person; but it did not penetrate to this depth, so far as the Old Testament consciousness was concerned.
The fourth name springs out of the third: ‘abiy-`ad, eternal Father (not Booty Father, with which Hitzig and Knobel content themselves); for what is divine must be eternal. The title Eternal Father designates Him, however, not only as the possessor of eternity (Hengstenberg), but as the tender, faithful, and wise trainer, guardian, and provider for His people even in eternity (Isa 22:21). He is eternal Father, as the eternal, loving King, according to the description in Ps 72. Now, if He is mighty God, and uses His divine might in eternity for the good of His people, He is also, as the fifth name affirms, sar-shâloom, a Prince who removes all peace-disturbing powers, and secures peace among the nations (Zech 9:10)-who is, as it were, the embodiment of peace come down into the world of nations (Mic 5:4). To exalt the government of David into an eternal rule of peace, is the end for which He is born; and moreover He proves Himself to be what He is not only called, but actually is.
“To the increase of government and to peace without end, upon the throne of David, and over his Kingdom, to strengthen it, and to support it through judgment and righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The jealousy of Jehovah of hosts will fulfil this.” hb,r]mæ (written with Mêm clausum in the middle of the one word, and, according to Elias Levita, properly to be read rabeeh laam, iis magnificando, in accordance with this way of writing the word is not a participle here, but a substantive after the forms ha,r]mæ , hc,[mæ , and that not from hb;r; , but from bræ , an infinitive noun expressing, according to its formation, the practical result of an action, rather than the abstract idea. f53 Ever extending dominion and endless peace will be brought in by the sublime and lofty King’s Son, when He sits upon the throne of David and rules over David’s kingdom. He is a semper Augustus, i.e., a perpetual increaser of the kingdom; not by war, however, but with the spiritual weapons of peace. And within He gives to the kingdom “judgment” (mishpât) and “righteousness” (zedâkâh), as the foundations and pillars of its durability: mishpât, judgment or right, which He pronounces and ordains; and righteousness, which He not only exercises Himself, but transfers to the members of His kingdom. This new epoch of Davidic sovereignty was still only a matter of faith and hope. But the zeal of Jehovah was the guarantee of its realization. The accentuation is likely to mislead here, inasmuch as it makes it appear as though the words “from henceforth even for ever” (me’attâh v’ad ‘oolâm) belonged to the closing sentence, whereas the eternal perspective which they open applies directly to the reign of the great Son of David, and only indirectly to the work of the divine jealousy. “Zeal,” or jealousy, kin’âh, lit., glowing fire, from qaanee’, Arab. kanaa, to be deep red (Deut 4:24), is one of the deepest of the Old Testament ideas, and one of the most fruitful in relation to the work of reconciliation. It is two-sided. The fire of love has for its obverse the fire of wrath. For jealousy contends for the object of its love against everything that touches either the object or the love itself. f54 Jehovah loves His nation. That He should leave it in the hands of such bad Davidic kings as Ahaz, and give it up to the imperial power of the world, would be altogether irreconcilable with this love, if continued long. But His love flares up, consumes all that is adverse, and gives to His people the true King, in whom that which was only foreshadowed in David and Solomon reaches its highest antitypical fulfilment. With the very same words, “the zeal of Jehovah of hosts,” etc., Isaiah seals the promise in Isa 37:32.
B. JEHOVAH’S OUTSTRETCHED HAND The great light would not arise till the darkness had reached its deepest point. The gradual increase of this darkness is predicted in this second section of the esoteric addresses. Many difficult questions suggest themselves in connection with this section. 1. Is it directed against the northern kingdom only, or against all Israel? 2. What was the historical standpoint of the prophet himself? The majority of commentators reply that the prophet is only prophesying against Ephraim here, and that Syria and Ephraim have already been chastised by Tiglath-pileser. The former is incorrect. The prophet does indeed commence with Ephraim, but he does not stop there. The fates of both kingdoms flow into one another here, as well as in Isa 8:5ff., just as they were causally connected in actual fact. And it cannot be maintained, that when the prophet uttered his predictions Ephraim had already felt the scourging of Tiglath-pileser. The prophet takes his stand at a time when judgment after judgment had fallen upon all Israel without improving it.
And one of these past judgments was the scourging of Ephraim by Tiglathpileser.
How much or how little of the events which the prophet looks back upon from this ideal standpoint had already taken place, it is impossible to determine; but this is a matter of indifference so far as the prophecy is concerned. The prophet, from his ideal standing-place, had not only this or that behind him, but all that is expressed in this section by perfects and aorists (Ges. §129, 2, b). And we already know from Isa 2:9; 5:25, that he sued the future conversive as the preterite of the ideal past. We therefore translate the whole in the present tense. In outward arrangement there is no section of Isaiah so symmetrical as this. In ch. 5 we found one partial approach to the strophe in similarity of commencement, and another in ch. 2 in similarity of conclusion. But here Isa 5:25b is adapted as the refrain of four symmetrical strophes. We will take each strophe by itself.
Strophe 1. Vv. 8-12. “The Lord sends out a word against Jacob, and it descends into Israel. And all the people must make atonement, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, saying in pride and haughtiness of heart, ‘Bricks are fallen down, and we build with square stones; sycamores are hewn down, and we put cedars in their place.’ Jehovah raises Rezin’s oppressors high above him, and pricks up his enemies: Aram from the east, and Philistines from the west; they devour Israel with full mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still.” The word (dâbâr) is both in nature and history the messenger of the Lord: it runs quickly through the earth (Ps 147:15,18), and when sent by the Lord, comes to men to destroy or to heal (Ps 107:20), and never returns to its sender void (Isa 55:10-11). Thus does the Lord now send a word against Jacob (Jacob, as in Isa 2:5); and this heavenly messenger descends into Israel (nâphal, as in Dan 4:28, and like the Arabic nazala, which is the word usually employed to denote the communication of divine revelation), taking shelter, as it were, in the soul of the prophet.
Its immediate commission is directed against Ephraim, which has been so little humbled by the calamities that have fallen upon it since the time of Jehu, that the people are boasting that they will replace bricks and sycamores (or sycamines, from shikmin), that wide-spread tree (1 Kings 10:27), with works of art and cedars. “We put in their place:” nachaliph is not used here as in Job 14:7, where it signifies to sprout again (nova germina emittere), but as in Isa 40:31; 41:1, where it is construed with jæKo (strength), and signifies to renew (novas vires assumere). In this instance, when the object is one external to the subject, the meaning is to substitute (substituere), like the Arabic achlafa, to restore. The poorest style of building in the land is contrasted with the best; for “the sycamore is a tree which only flourishes in the plain, and there the most wretched houses are still built of bricks dried in the sun, and of knotty beams of sycamore.”
These might have been destroyed by the war, but more durable and stately buildings would rise up in their place. Ephraim, however, would be made to feel this defiance of the judgments of God (to “know,” as in Hos 9:7; Ezek 25:14). Jehovah would give the adversaries of Rezin authority over Ephraim, and instigate his foes: sicseec, as in Isa 19:2, from sâcac, in its primary sense of “prick,” figere, which has nothing to do with the meanings to plait and cover, but from which we have the words Ëce , hs;K; , a thorn, nail, or plug, and which is probably related to saakaah, to view, lit., to fix; hence pilpel, to prick up, incite, which is the rendering adopted by the Targum here and in Isa 19:2, and by the LXX at ch. 19:2. There is no necessity to quote the talmudic sicseec, to kindle (by friction), which is never met with in the metaphorical sense of exciting.
It would be even better to take our sicseec as an intensive form of sâcac, used in the same sense as the Arabic, viz., to provide one’s self with weapons, to arm; but this is probably a denominative from sicca, signifying offensive armour, with the idea of pricking and spearing-a radical notion, from which it would be easy to get at the satisfactory meaning, to spur on or instigate. “The oppressors of Rezin” tzâree Retziin, a simple play upon the words, like hoi goi in Isa 1:4, and many others in Isaiah) are the Assyrians, whose help had been sought by Ahaz against Rezin; though perhaps not these exclusively, but possibly also the Trachonites, for example, against whom the mountain fortress Rezîn appears to have been erected, to protect the rich lands of eastern Hauran. In v. 12 the range of vision stretches over all Israel. It cannot be otherwise, for the northern kingdom never suffered anything from the Philistines; whereas an invasion of Judah by the Philistines was really one of the judgments belonging to the time of Ahaz (2 Chron 28:16-19). Consequently by Israel here we are to understand all Israel, the two halves of which would become a rich prize to the enemy. Ephraim would be swallowed up by Aram-namely, by those who had been subjugated by Asshur, and were now tributary to it-and Judah would be swallowed up by the Philistines. But this strait would be very far from being the end of the punish- ments of God. Because Israel would not turn, the wrath of God would not turn away.
Strophe 2. Vv. 13-17. “But the people turneth not unto Him that smiteth it, and they seek not Jehovah of hosts. Therefore Jehovah rooteth out of Israel head and tail, palm-branch and rush, in one day. Elders and highly distinguished men, this is the head; and prophets, lying teachers, this is the tail. The leaders of this people have become leaders astray, and their followers swallowed up. Therefore the Lord will not rejoice in their young men, and will have no compassion on their orphans and widows: for all together are profligate and evil-doers, and every mouth speaketh blasphemy. With all this His anger is not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still.” As the first stage of the judgments has been followed by no true conversion to Jehovah the almighty judge, there comes a second. `d[æ bWv (to turn unto) denotes a thorough conversion, not stopping half-way. “The smiter of it” (hammacceehu), or “he who smiteth it,” it Jehovah (compare, on the other hand, Isa 10:20, where Asshur is intended). The article and suffix are used together, as in Isa 24:2; Prov 16:4 (vid., Ges. §110, 2; Caspari, Arab. Gram. §472). But there was coming now a great day of punishment (in the view of the prophet, it was already past), such as Israel experienced more than once in the Assyrian oppressions, and Judah in the Chaldean, when head and tail, or, according to another proverbial expression, palm-branch and rush, would be rooted out. We might suppose that the persons referred to were the high and low; but v. 15 makes a different application of the first double figure, by giving it a different turn from its popular sense (compare the Arabic er-ru ‘ûs w-aledhnâb = lofty and low, in Dietrich, Abhandlung, p. 209). The opinion which has very widely prevailed since the time of Koppe, that this verse is a gloss, is no doubt a very natural one (see Hitzig, Begriff der Kritik; Ewald, Propheten, i. 57).
But Isaiah’s custom of supplying his own gloss is opposed to such a view; also Isaiah’s composition in Isa 3:3 and 30:20, and the relation in which this verse stands to v. 16; and lastly, the singular character of the gloss itself, which is one of the strongest proofs that it contains the prophet’s exposition of his own words. The chiefs of the nation were the head of the national body; and behind, like a wagging dog’s tail, sat the false prophets with their flatteries of the people, loving, as Persius says, blando caudam jactare popello. The prophet drops the figure of cippâh, the palm-branch which forms the crown of the palm, and which derives its name from the fact that it resembles the palm of the hand (instar palmae manus), and agmoon, the rush which grows in the marsh. f55 The allusion here is to the rulers of the nation and the dregs of the people.
The basest extremity were the demagogues in the shape of prophets. For it had come to this, as v. 16 affirms, that those who promised to lead by a straight road led astray, and those who suffered themselves to be led by them were as good as already swallowed up by hell (cf., Isa 5:14; 3:12).
Therefore the Sovereign Ruler would not rejoice over the young men of this nation; that is to say, He would suffer them to be smitten by their enemies, without going with them to battle, and would refuse His customary compassion even towards widows and orphans, for they were all thoroughly corrupt on every side. The alienation, obliquity, and dishonesty of their heart, are indicated by the word châneeph (from chânaph, which has in itself the indifferent radical idea of inclination; so that in Arabic, chanîf, as a synonym of ‘âdil, has the very opposite meaning of decision in favour of what is right); the badness of their actions by [ræ (in half pause for [[ær; = [æreme , maleficus); the vicious infatuation of their words by nebâlâh. This they are, and this they continue; and consequently the wrathful hand of God is stretched out over them for the infliction of fresh strokes.
Strophe 3. Vv. 18-21. “For the wickedness burneth up like fire: it devours thorns and thistles, and burns in the thickets of the wood; and they smoke upwards in a lofty volume of smoke. Through the wrath of Jehovah of hosts the land is turned into coal, and the nation has become like the food of fire: not one spares his brother. They hew on the right, and are hungry; and devour on the left, and are not satisfied: they devour the flesh of their own arm: Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: these together over Judah. With all this His anger is not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still.” The standpoint of the prophet is at the extreme end of the course of judgment, and from that he looks back. Consequently this link of the chain is also past in his view, and hence the future conversives.
The curse, which the apostasy of Israel carries within itself, now breaks fully out.
Wickedness, i.e., the constant thirst of evil, is a fire which a man kindles in himself. And when the grace of God, which damps and restrains this fire, is all over, it is sure to burst forth: the wickedness bursts forth like fire (the verb is used here, as in Isa 30:27, with reference to the wrath of God). And this is the case with the wickedness of Israel, which now consumes first of all thorns and thistles, i.e., individual sinners who are the most ripe for judgment, upon whom the judgment commences, and then the thicket of the wood (sib-che, as in Isa 10:34, from sebac, Gen 22:13 = sobec), that is to say, the great mass of the people, which is woven together by bands of iniquity (vattizzath is not a reflective niphal, as in 2 Kings 22:13, but kal, to kindle into anything, i.e., to set it on fire).
The contrast intended in the two figures is consequently not the high and low (Ewald), nor the useless and useful (Drechsler), but individuals and the whole (Vitringa). The fire, into which the wickedness bursts out, seizes individuals first of all; and then, like a forest fire, it seizes upon the nation at large in all its ranks and members, who “whirl up (roll up) ascending of smoke,” i.e., who roll up in the form of ascending smoke (hith’abbek, a synonym of hithhappeek, Judg 7:13, to curl or roll). This fire of wickedness was no other than the wrath (‘ebrâh) of God: it is God’s own wrath, for all sin carries this within itself as its own self-punishment. By this fire of wrath the soil of the land is gradually but thoroughly burnt out, and the people of the land utterly consumed: `µtæ[; hap leg to be red-hot (LXX sugke>kautai , also the Targum), and to be dark or black (Arabic ‘atame, late at night), for what is burnt out becomes black.
Fire and darkness are therefore correlative terms throughout the whole of the Scriptures. So far do the figures extend, in which the prophet presents the inmost essence of this stage of judgment. In its historical manifestation it consisted in the most inhuman self-destruction during an anarchical civil war. Destitute of any tender emotions, they devoured one another without being satisfied: gâzar, to cut, to hew (hence the Arabic for a butcher): zero’o, his arm, according to Jer 19:9, equivalent to the member of his own family and tribe, who was figuratively called his arm (Arabic ‘adud: see Ges. Thes. p. 433), as being the natural protector and support. This interminable self-immolation, and the regicide associated with the jealousy of the different tribes, shook the northern kingdom again and again to its utter destruction. And the readiness with which the unbrotherly feelings of the northern tribes towards one another could turn into combined hostility towards Judah, was evident enough from the Syro-Ephraimitish war, the consequences of which had not passed away at the time when these prophecies were uttered. This hostility on the part of the brother kingdoms would still further increase. And the end of the judgments of wrath had not come yet.
Strophe 4. Ch. Isa 10:1-4. “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers who prepare trouble to force away the needy from demanding justice, and to rob the suffering of my people of their rightful claims, that widows may become their prey, and they plunder orphans! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the storm that cometh from afar? To whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye deposit your glory? There is nothing left but to bow down under prisoners, and they fall under the slain. With all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.” This last strophe is directed against the unjust authorities and judges. The woe pronounced upon them is, as we have already frequently seen, Isaiah’s ceterum censeo. Châkak is their decisive decree (not, however, in a denominative sense, but in the primary sense of hewing in, recording in official documents, Isa 30:8; Job 19:23); and citteeb (piel only occurring here, and a perfect, according to Gesenius, §126, 3) their official signing and writing. Their decrees are chikekee ‘aven (an open plural, as in Judg 5:15, for chukkee, after the analogy of ll,Ge , `µ[æ , with an absolute chakâkiim underlying it: Ewald, §186-7), inasmuch as their contents were worthlessness, i.e., the direct opposite of morality; and what they wrote out was ‘âmâl, trouble, i.e., an unjust oppression of the people (compare po>nov and ponhro>v ). f59 Poor persons who wanted to commence legal proceedings were not even allowed to do so, and possessions to which widows and orphans had a well-founded claim were a welcome booty to them (for the diversion into the finite verb, see Isa 5:24; 8:11; 49:5; 58:5). For all this they could not escape the judgment of God. This is announced to them in v. 3, in the form of three distinct questions (commencing with uumâh, quid igitur). The noun pekuddah in the first question always signifies simply a visitation of punishment; sho’âh is a confused, dull, desolate rumbling, hence confusion (turba), desolation: here it is described as “coming from afar,” because a distant nation (Asshur) was the instrument of God’s wrath. Second question: “Upon whom will ye throw yourselves in your search for help then” (nuus ‘al, a constr. praegnans, only met with here)? Third question: “Where, i.e., in whose hand, will ye deposit your wealth in money and possessions” (câbood, what is weighty in value and imposing in appearance); ‘âzab with b’yad (Gen 39:6), or with Lamed (Job 39:14), to leave anything with a person as property in trust.
No one would relieve them of their wealth, and hold it as a deposit; it was irrecoverably lost. To this negative answer there is appended the following bilti, which, when used as a preposition after a previous negation, signifies praeter; when used as a conjunction, nisi (bilti ‘im, Judg 7:14); and where it governs the whole sentence, as in this case, nisi quod (cf., Num 11:6; Dan 11:18). In the present instance, where the previous negation is to be supplied in thought, it has the force of nil reliquum est nisi quod (there is nothing left but). The singular verb (câra’) is used contemptuously, embracing all the high persons as one condensed mass; and tachath does not mean aeque ac or loco (like, or in the place of), as Ewald (§217, k) maintains, but is used in the primary and local sense of infra (below). Some crouch down to find room at the feet of the prisoners, who are crowded closely together in the prison; or if we suppose the prophet to have a scene of transportation in his mind, they sink down under the feet of the other prisoners, in their inability to bear such hardships, whilst the rest fall in war; and as the slaughter is of long duration, not only become corpses themselves, but are covered with corpses of the slain (cf., Isa 14:19). And even with this the wrath of God is not satisfied. The prophet, however, does not follow out the terrible gradation any further. Moreover, the captivity, to which this fourth strophe points, actually formed the conclusion of a distinct period. C. DESTRUCTION OF THE IMPERIAL KINGDOM OF THE WORLD, AND RISE OF THE KINGDOM OF JEHOVAH IN HIS ANOINTED The law of contrast prevails in prophecy, as it does also in the history of salvation. When distress is at its height, it is suddenly brought to an end, and changed into relief; and when prophecy has become as black with darkness as in the previous section, it suddenly becomes as bright and cloudless as in that which is opening now. The oJi (woe) pronounced upon Israel becomes a hoi upon Asshur. Proud Asshur, with its confidence in its own strength, after having served for a time as the goad of Jehovah’s wrath, now falls a victim to that wrath itself. Its attack upon Jerusalem leads to its own overthrow; and on the ruins of the kingdom of the world there rises up the kingdom of the great and righteous Son of David, who rules in peace over His redeemed people, and the nations that rejoice in Him:-the counterpart of the redemption from Egypt, and one as rich in materials for songs of praise as the passage through the Red Sea. The Messianic prophecy, which turns its darker side towards unbelief in ch. 7, and whose promising aspect burst like a great light through the darkness in Isa 8:5-9:6, is standing now upon its third and highest stage.
In ch. 7 it is like a star in the night; in Isa 8:5-9:6, like the morning dawn; and now the sky is perfectly cloudless, and it appears like the noonday sun.
The prophet has now penetrated to the light fringe of ch. 6. The name Shear-yashub, having emptied itself of all the curse that it contained, is now transformed into a pure promise. And it becomes perfectly clear what the name Immanuel and the name given to Immanuel, El gibbor (mighty God), declared. The remnant of Israel turns to God the mighty One; and God the mighty is henceforth with His people in the Sprout of Jesse, who has the seven Spirits of God dwelling within Himself. So far as the date of composition is concerned, the majority of the more recent commentators agree in assigning it to the time of Hezekiah, because Isa 10:9-11 presupposes the destruction of Samaria by Shalmanassar, which took place in the sixth year of Hezekiah. But it was only from the prophet’s point of view that this event was already past; it had not actually taken place.
The prophet had already predicted that Samaria, and with Samaria the kingdom of Israel, would succumb to the Assyrians, and had even fixed the years (Isa 7:8 and 8:4,7). Why, then, should he not be able to presuppose it here as an event already past? The stamp on this section does not tally at all with that of Isaiah’s prophecy in the times of Hezekiah; whereas, on the other hand, it forms so integral a link in the prophetic cycle in ch. 7-12, and is interwoven in so many ways with that which precedes, and of which it forms both the continuation and crown, that we have no hesitation in assigning it, with Vitringa, Caspari, and Drechsler, to the first three years of the reign of Ahaz, though without deciding whether it preceded or followed the destruction of the two allies by Tiglath-pileser. It is by no means impossible that it may have preceded it.
Verse 5-6. The prophet commences with hoi (woe!), which is always used as an expression of wrathful indignation to introduce the proclamation of judgment upon the person named; although, as in the present instance, this may not always follow immediately (cf., Isa 1:4-5-9), but may be preceded by the announcement of the sin by which the judgment had been provoked.
In the first place, Asshur is more particularly indicated as the chosen instrument of divine judgment upon all Israel.-Vv. 5, 6. “Woe to Asshur, the rod of mine anger, and it is a staff in their hand, mine indignation.
Against a wicked nation will I send them, and against the people of my wrath give them a charge, to spoil spoil, and to prey prey, to make it trodden down like street-mire.” “Mine indignation:” za’mi is either a permutation of the predicative aWh , which is placed emphatically in the foreground (compare the aWhAhT;aæ in Jer 14:22, which is also written with makkeph), as we have translated it, though without taking aWh as a copula (= est), as Ewald does; or else dy; aWh is written elliptically for dy; aWh rv,a , “the staff which they hold is mine indignation” (Ges., Rosenmüller, and others), in which case, however, we should rather expect awh ym[z µdyb hffw . It is quite inadmissible, however, to take za’mi as a separate genitive to matteh, and to point the latter with zere, as Knobel has done; a thing altogether unparalleled in the Hebrew language. f60 The futures in v. 6 are to be taken literally; for what Asshur did to Israel in the sixty year of Hezekiah’s reign, and to Judah in his fourteenth year, was still in the future at the time when Isaiah prophesied. Instead of wOmycl]W the keri has µWc , the form in which the infinitive is written in other passages when connected with suffixes (see, on the other hand,2 Sam 14:7). “Trodden down:” mirmas with short a is the older form, which was retained along with the other form with the a lengthened by the tone (Ewald §160, c).
Asshur was to be an instrument of divine wrath upon all Israel; but it would exalt itself, and make itself the end instead of the means. V. 7. “Nevertheless he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; for it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.” Asshur did not think so (lo’-ceen), i.e., not as he ought to think, seeing that his power over Israel was determined by Jehovah Himself. For what filled his heart was the endeavour, peculiar to the imperial power, to destroy not a few nations, i.e., as many nations as possible, for the purpose of extending his own dominions, and with the determination to tolerate no other independent nation, and the desire to deal with Judah as with all the rest. For Jehovah was nothing more in his esteem than one of the idols of the nations. Vv. 8- 11. “For he saith, Are not my generals all kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish, or Hamath as Arpad, or Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath reached the kingdoms of the idols, and their graven images were more than those of Jerusalem and Samaria; shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, do likewise to Jerusalem and her idols?” The king of Asshur bore the title of the great king (Isa 36:4), and indeed, as we may infer from Ezek 26:7, that of the king of kings.
The generals in his army he could call kings, because the satraps who led their several contingents were equal to kings in the extent and splendour of their government, and some of them were really conquered kings (cf., 2 Kings 25:28). He proudly asks whether every one of the cities named has not been as incapable as the rest, of offering a successful resistance to him. Carchemish is the later Circesium (Cercusium), at the junction of the Chaboras with the Euphrates (see above); Calno, the later Ctesiphon, on the left bank of the Tigris; Arpad (according to Merâshid, i. p. 47, in the pashalic of Chaleb, i.e., Aleppo) and Hamath (i.e., Epiphania) were Syrian cities, the latter on the river Orontes, still a large and wealthy place.
The king of Asshur had also already conquered Samaria, at the time when the prophet introduced him as uttering these words. Jerusalem, therefore, would be unable to resist him. As he had obtained possession of idolatrous kingdoms ( l] ax;m; , to reach, as in Ps 21:9: hâ-’elil with the article indicating the genus), which had more idols than Jerusalem or than Samaria; so would he also overcome Jerusalem, which had just as few and just as powerless idols as Samaria had. Observe there that v. 11 is the apodosis to v. 10, and that the comparative clause of v. 10 is repeated in v. 11, for the purpose of instituting a comparison, more especially with Samaria and Jerusalem. The king of Asshur calls the gods of the nations by the simple name of idols, though the prophet does not therefore make him speak from his own Israelitish standpoint. On the contrary, the great sin of the king of Asshur consisted in the manner in which he spoke.
For since he recognised no other gods than his own Assyrian national deities, he placed Jehovah among the idols of the nations, and, what ought particularly to be observed, with the other idols, whose worship had been introduced into Samaria and Jerusalem. But in this very fact there was so far consolation for the worshippers of Jehovah, that such blasphemy of the one living God would not remain unavenged; whilst for the worshipers of idols it contained a painful lesson, since their gods really deserved nothing better than that contempt should be heaped upon them. The prophet has now described the sin of Asshur. It was ambitious self-exaltation above Jehovah, amounting even to blasphemy. And yet he was only the staff of Jehovah, who could make use of him as He would.
And when He had made use of him as He would, He would throw him away. V. 12. “And it will come to pass, when the Lord shall have brought to an end all His work upon Mount Zion and upon Jerusalem, I will come to punish over the fruit of the pride of heart of the king of Asshur, and over the haughty look of his eyes.” The “fruit” (peri) of the heart’s pride of Asshur is his vainglorious blasphemy of Jehovah, in which his whole nature is comprehended, as the inward nature of the tree is in the fruit which hangs above in the midst of the branches; tiph’ereth, as in Zech 12:7, the self-glorification which expresses itself in the lofty look of the eyes. Several constructives are here intentionally grouped together (Ges. §114, 1), to express the great swelling of Asshur even to bursting. But Jehovah, before whom humility is the soul of all virtue, would visit this pride with punishment, when He should have completely cut off His work, i.e., when He should have thoroughly completed (bizza’, absolvere) His punitive work upon Jerusalem (ma’aseh, as in Isa 28:21). The prep. Beth is used in the same sense as in Jer 18:23, agere cum aliquo. It is evident that ma’aseh is not used to indicate the work of punishment and grace together, so that yebazza’ could be taken as a literal future (as Schröring and Ewald suppose), but that it denotes the work of punishment especially; and consequently yebazza’ is to be taken as a futurum exactum (cf., Isa 4:4), as we may clearly see from the choice of this word in Lam 2:17 (cf., Zech 4:9).
When Jehovah had punished to such an extent that He could not go any further without destroying Israel-a result which would be opposed to His mercy and truth-His punishing would turn against the instrument of punishment, which would fall under the curse of all ungodly selfishness.
Vv. 13, 14. “For he hath said, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my own wisdom; for I am prudent: and I removed the bounds of the nations, and I plundered their stores, and threw down rulers like a bull.
And my hand extracted the wealth of the nations like a nest: and as men sweep up forsaken eggs, have I swept the whole earth; there was none that moved the wing, and opened the mouth, and chirped.” The futures may be taken most safely as regulated by the preterites, and used, like German imperfects, to express that which occurs not once merely, but several times.
The second of these preterites, hs;v; , is the only example of a poel of verbs hl ; possibly a mixed form from shoceec (poel of ssæv; ) and hS;vim] (piel of hs;v; ). The object to this, viz., ‘athidoth (chethib) or ‘athudoth (keri), is sometimes used in the sense of ta> me>llonta ; sometimes, as in this instance, in the sense of ta> uJpa>rconta . According to the keri, the passage is to be rendered, “And I, a mighty one, threw down kings” (those sitting on thrones), cabbir being taken in the same sense as in Job 34:17,24; 36:5.
But the chethib câ’abbiir is to be preferred as more significant, and not to be rendered “as a hero” (to which the Caph similitudinis is so little suitable, that it would be necessary to take it, as in Isa 13:6, as Caph veritatis), but “as a bull,” ‘abbiir as in Ps 68:31; 22:13; 50:13.
A bull, as the excavations show, was an emblem of royalty among the Assyrians. In v. 14, the more stringent Vav conv. is introduced before the third pers. fem. The Kingdoms of the nations are compared here to birds’ nests, which the Assyrian took for himself (‘âsaph, as in Hab 2:5); and their possessions to single eggs. The mother bird was away, so that there was not even a sign of resistance; and in the nest itself not one of the young birds moved a wing to defend itself, or opened its beak to scare the intruder away. Seb. Schmid has interpreted to correctly, “nulla alam movet ad defendendum aut os aperit ad terrendum.” Thus proudly did Asshur look back upon its course of victory, and thus contemptuously did it look down upon the conquered kingdoms.
This self-exaltation was a foolish sin. V. 15. “Dare the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith, or the saw magnify itself against him that useth it? As if a staff were to swing those that lift it up, as if a stick should lift up not-wood!” “Not-wood” is to be taken as one word, as in Isa 31:8. A stick is wood, and nothing more; in itself it is an absolutely motionless thing. A man is “not-wood,” an incomparably higher, living being. As there must be “not-wood” to lay hold of wood, so, wherever a man performs extraordinary deeds, there is always a superhuman cause behind, viz., God Himself, who bears the same relation to the man as the man to the wood. The boasting of the Assyrian was like the bragging of an instrument, such as an axe, a saw, or a stick, against the person using it.
The verb heeniiph is applied both to saw and stick, indicating the oscillating movements of a measured and more or less obvious character.
The plural, “those that lift it up,” points to the fact that by Him who lifts up the stock, Jehovah, the cause of all causes, and power of all powers, is intended.
There follows in the next verse the punishment provoked by such selfdeification (cf., Hab 1:11). V. 16. “Therefore will the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send consumption against his fat men; and under Asshur’s glory there burns a brand like a firebrand.” Three epithets are here employed to designate God according to His unlimited, all-controlling omnipotence: viz., hâ’âdoon, which is always used by Isaiah in connection with judicial and penal manifestations of power; and adonâi zebâoth, a combination never met with again, similar to the one used in the Elohistic Psalms, Elohim zebaoth (compare, on the other hand, Isa 3:15; 10:23-24). Even here a large number of codices and editions (Norzi’s, for example) have the reading Jehovah Zebaoth, which is customary in other cases. f64 Râzoon (Isa 17:4) is one of the diseases mentioned in the catalogue of curses in Lev 26:16 and Deut 28:22. Galloping consumption comes like a destroying angel upon the great masses of flesh seen in the well-fed Assyrian magnates: mishmannim is used in a personal sense, as in Ps 78:31.
And under the glory of Asshur, i.e., its richly equipped army (câbood as in Isa 8:7), He who makes His angels flames of fire places fire so as to cause it to pass away in flames. In accordance with Isaiah’s masterly art of painting in tones, the whole passage is so expressed, that we can hear the crackling, and spluttering, and hissing of the fire, as it seizes upon everything within its reach. This fire, whatever it may be so far as its natural and phenomenal character is concerned, is in its true essence the wrath of Jehovah.
“And the light of Israel becomes a fire, and His Holy One a flame; and it sets on fire and devours its thistles and thorns on one day.” God is fire (Deut 9:3), and light (1 John 1:5); and in His own self-life the former is resolved into the latter. Kâdoosh (holy) is here parallel to ‘oor (light); for the fact that God is holy, and the fact that He is pure light, are essentially one and the same thing, whether kâdash meant originally to be pure or to be separate. The nature of all creatures, and of the whole cosmos, is a mixture of light and darkness. The nature of God alone is absolute light.
But light is love. In this holy light of love He has given Himself up to Israel, and taken Israel to Himself. But He has also within Him a basis of fire, which sin excites against itself, and which was about to burst forth as a flaming fire of wrath against Asshur, on account of its sins against Him and His people. Before this fire of wrath, this destructive might of His penal righteousness, the splendid forces of Asshur were nothing but a mass of thistles and a bed of thorns (written here in the reverse order peculiar to Isaiah, shâmiir vâshaith), equally inflammable, and equally deserving to be burned. To all appearance, it was a forest and a park, but is was irrecoverably lost.
“And the glory of his forest and his garden-ground will He destroy, even to soul and flesh, so that it is as when a sick man dieth. And the remnant of the trees of his forest can be numbered, and a boy could write them.” The army of Asshur, composed as it was of many and various nations, was a forest (ya’ar); and, boasting as it did of the beauty of both men and armour, a garden ground (carmel), a human forest and park. Hence the idea of “utterly” is expressed in the proverbial “even to soul and flesh,” which furnishes the occasion for a leap to the figure of the wasting away of a ssæn; (hap. leg. the consumptive man, from nâsas, related to nuush, ‘ânash, Syr. n’sîso, n’shisho, a sick man, based upon the radical notion of melting away, cf., mâsas, or of reeling to and fro, cf., muut, nuut, Arab. nâsa, nâta). Only a single vital spark would still glimmer in the gigantic and splendid colossus, and with this its life would threaten to become entirely extinct. Or, what is the same thing, only a few trees of the forest, such as could be easily numbered (mispâr as in Deut 33:6, cf., Isa 21:17), would still remain, yea, so few, that a boy would be able to count and enter them.
And this really came to pass. Only a small remnant of the army that marched against Jerusalem ever escaped. With this small remnant of an alldestroying power the prophet now contrasts the remnant of Israel, which is the seed of a new power that is about to arise.
“And it will come to pass in that day, the remnant of Israel, and that which has escaped of the house of Jacob, will not continue to stay itself upon its chastiser, and will stay itself upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” Behind the judgment upon Asshur there lies the restoration of Israel. “The chastiser” was the Assyrian. While relying upon this, Israel received strokes, because Jehovah made Israel’s staff into its rod. But henceforth it would sanctify the Holy One of Israel, putting its trust in Him and not in man, and that purely and truly (be’emeth, “in truth”), not with fickleness and hypocrisy. Then would be fulfilled the promise contained in the name Shear-yashub, after the fulfilment of the threat that it contained.
“The remnant will turn, the remnant of Jacob, to God the mighty.” El gibbor is God as historically manifested in the heir of David (Isa 9:6).
Whilst Hosea (Hos 3:5) places side by side Jehovah and the second David, Isaiah sees them as one. In New Testament phraseology, it would be “to God in Christ.” ISAIAH 10:22-23 To Him the remnant of Israel would turn, but only the remnant. Vv. 22, 23. “For if thy people were even as the sea-sand, the remnant thereof will turn: destruction is firmly determined, flowing away righteousness. For the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, completes the finishing stroke and that which is firmly determined, within the whole land.” As the words are not preceded by any negative clause, ci ‘im are not combined in the sense of sed or nisi; but they belong to two sentences, and signify nam si (for if). If the number of the Israelites were the highest that had been promised, only the remnant among them, or of them (boo partitive, like the French en), would turn, or, as the nearer definition ad Deum is wanting here, come back to their right position. With regard to the great mass, destruction was irrevocably determined (râchatz, te’mnein, then to resolve upon anything, apoto>mwv , 1 Kings 20:40); and this destruction “overflowed with righteousness,” or rather “flowed on (shooteeph, as in Isa 28:18) righteousness,” i.e., brought forth righteousness as it flowed onwards, so that it was like a swell of the penal righteousness of God (shâtaph, with the accusative, according to Ges. §138, Anm. 2).
That cillâyoon is not used here in the sense of completion any more than in Deut 28:65, is evident from v. 23, where câlâh (fem. of câleh, that which vanishes, then the act of vanishing, the end) is used interchangeably with it, and necherâtzâh indicates judgment as a thing irrevocably decided (as in Isa 28:22, and borrowed from these passages in Dan 9:27; 11:36). Such a judgment of extermination the almighty Judge had determined to carry fully out (‘ooseh in the sense of a fut. instans) within all the land (b’kereb, within, not b’thok, in the midst of), that is to say, one that would embrace the whole land and all the people, and would destroy, if not every individual without exception, at any rate the great mass, except a very few.
In these esoteric addresses, whoever, it is not the prophet’s intention to threaten and terrify, but to comfort and encourage. He therefore turns to that portion of the nation which needs and is susceptible of consolation, and draws this conclusion from the element of consolation contained in what has been already predicted, that they may be consoled.-V. 24. “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, My people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of Asshur, if it shall smite thee with the rod, and lift its stick against thee, in the manner of Egypt.” “Therefore:” laceen never occurs in Hebrew in the sense of attamen (Gesenius and Hitzig), and this is not the meaning here, but propterea. The elevating appeal is founded upon what has just before been threatened in such terrible words, but at the same time contains an element of promise in the midst of the peremptory judgment. The very words in which the people are addressed, “My people that dwelleth on Zion,” are indirectly encouraging. Zion was the site of the gracious presence of God, and of that sovereignty which had been declared imperishable. Those who dwelt there, and were the people of God (the servants of God), not only according to their calling, but also according to their internal character, were also heirs of the promise; and therefore, even if the Egyptian bondage should be renewed in the Assyrian, they might be assured of this to their consolation, that the redemption of Egypt would also be renewed. “In the manner of Egypt:” b’derek Mitzraim, lit., in the way, i.e., the Egyptians’ mode of acting; derek denotes the course of active procedure, and also, as in v. 26 and Amos 4:10, the course of passive endurance.
A still further reason is given for the elevating words, with a resumption of the grounds of consolation upon which they were founded. Vv. 25, 26. “For yet a very little the indignation is past, and my wrath turns to destroy them: and Jehovah of hosts moves the whip over it, as He smote Midian at the rock of Oreb; and His staff stretches out over the sea, and He lifts it up in the manner of Egypt.” The expression “a very little” (as in Isa 16:14; 29:17) does not date from the actual present, when the Assyrian oppressions had not yet begun, but from the ideal present, when they were threatening Israel with destruction. The indignation of Jehovah would then suddenly come to an end (câlâh za’am, borrowed in Dan 11:36, and to be interpreted in accordance with Isa 26:20); and the wrath of Jehovah would be, or go, ‘al-tablithâm. Luzzatto recommends the following emendation of the text, µToyi lbeTeAl[e ypiaæw] , “and my wrath against the world will cease,” teebeel being used, as in Isa 14:17, with reference to the oikoumenon as enslaved by the imperial power.
But the received text gives a better train of thought, if we connect it with v. 26. We must not be led astray, however, by the preposition ‘al, and take the words as meaning, My wrath (burneth) over the destruction inflicted by Asshur upon the people of God, or the destruction endured by the latter. It is to the destruction of the Assyrians that the wrath of Jehovah is now directed; ‘al being used, as it frequently is, to indicate the object upon which the eye is fixed, or to which the intention points (Ps 32:8; 18:42).
With this explanation v. 25b leads on to v. 26. The destruction of Asshur is predicted there in two figures drawn from occurrences in the olden time.
The almighty Judge would swing the whip over Asshur (‘orer, agitare, as in 2 Sam 23:18), and smite it, as Midian was once smitten. The rock of Oreb is the place where the Ephraimites slew the Midianitish king ‘Oreb (Judg 7:25).
His staff would then be over the sea, i.e., would be stretched out, like the wonder-working staff of Moses, over the sea of affliction, into which the Assyrians had driven Israel (yâm, the sea, an emblem borrowed from the type; see Kohler on Zech 10:11, cf., Ps 66:6); and He would lift it up, commanding the waves of the sea, so that they would swallow Asshur. “In the manner of Egypt:” b’derek Mitzraim (according to Luzzatto in both instances, “on the way to Egypt,” which restricts the Assyrian bondage in a most unhistorical manner to the time of the Egyptian campaign) signifies in v. 24, as the Egyptians lifted it up; but here, as it was lifted up above the Egyptians. The expression is intentionally conformed to that in v. 24: because Asshur had lifted up the rod over Israel in the Egyptian manner, Jehovah would lift it up over Asshur in the Egyptian manner also.
The yoke of the imperial power would then burst asunder. V. 27. “And it will come to pass in that day, its burden will remove from thy shoulder, and its yoke from thy neck; and the yoke will be destroyed from the pressure of the fat.” We have here two figures: in the first (cessabit onus ejus a cervice tua) Israel is represented as a beast of burden; in the second (et jugum ejus a collo tuo), as a beast of draught. And this second figure is divided again into two fields. For yâsuur merely affirms that the yoke, like the burden, will be taken away from Israel; but chubbal, that the yoke itself will snap, from the pressure of his fat strong neck against it. Knobel, who alters the text, objects to this on the ground that the yoke was a cross piece of wood, and not a collar. And no doubt the simple yoke is a cross piece of wood, which is fastened to the forehead of the ox (generally of two oxen yoked together: jumenta = jugmenta, like jugum, from jungere); but the derivation of the name itself, ‘ol, from ‘âlal, points to the connection of the cross piece of wood with a collar, and here the yoke is expressly described as lying round the neck (and not merely fastened against the forehead).
There is no necessity, therefore, to read chebel (chablo), as Knobel proposes; chubbal (Arabic chubbila) indicates her a corrumpi consequent upon a disrumpi. (On p’nee, vid., Job 41:5; and for the application of the term mippenee to energy manifesting itself in its effects, compare Ps 68:3 as an example.) Moreover, as Kimchi has observed, in most instances the yoke creates a wound in the fat flesh of the ox by pressure and friction; but here the very opposite occurs, and the fatness of the ox leads to the destruction of the yoke (compare the figure of grafting employed in Rom 11:17, to which Paul gives a turn altogether contrary to nature). Salvation, as the double turn in the second figure affirms, comes no less from within (27b) than from without (27a). It is no less a consequence of the worldconquering grace at work in Isaiah, than a miracle wrought for Israel upon their foes.
The prophet now proceeds to describe how the Assyrian army advances steadily towards Jerusalem, spreading terror on every hand, and how, when planted there like a towering forest, it falls to the ground before the irresistible might of Jehovah. Eichhorn and Hitzig pronounce this prophecy a vaticinium post eventum, because of its far too special character; but Knobel regards it as a prophecy, because no Assyrian king ever did take the course described; in other words, as a mere piece of imagination, as Ewald maintains. Now, no doubt the Assyrian army, when it marched against Jerusalem, came from the southwest, namely, from the road to Egypt, and not directly from the north. Sennacherib had conquered Lachish; he then encamped before Libnah, and it was thence that he advanced towards Jerusalem. But the prophet had no intention of giving a fragment out of the history of the war: all that he meant to do was to give a lively representation of the future fact, that after devastating the land of Judah, the Assyrian would attack Jerusalem. There is no necessity whatever to contend, as Drechsler does, against calling the description an ideal one. There is all the difference in the world between idea and imagination. Idea is the essential root of the real, and the reality is its historical form. This form, its essential manifestation, may be either this or that, so far as individual features are concerned, without any violation of its essential character. What the prophet here predicts has, when properly interpreted, been all literally fulfilled. The Assyrian did come from the north with the storm-steps of a conqueror, and the cities named were really exposed to the dangers and terrors of war. And this was what the prophet depicted, looking as he did from a divine eminence, and drawing from the heart of the divine counsels, and then painting the future with colours which were but the broken lights of those counsels as they existed in his own mind.
Aesthetically considered, the description is one of the most magnificent that human poetry has ever produced. Vv. 28-32. “He comes upon Ayyath, passes through Migron; in Michmash he leaves his baggage. They go through the pass: let Geba be our quarters for the night! Ramah trembles; Gibeah of Saul flees. Scream aloud, O daughter of Gallim! Only listen, O Laysha! Poor Anathoth! Madmenah hurries away; the inhabitants of Gebim rescue. He still halts in Nob today; swings his hand over the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. Behold, the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, lops down the branches with terrific force; and those of towering growth are hewn down, and the lofty are humbled. And He fells the thickets of the forest with iron; and Lebanon, it falls by a Majestic One.”
When the Assyrian came upon Ayyath (= Ayyah, 1 Chron 7:28 (?), Neh 11:31, generally hâ-’ai, or ‘Ai), about thirty miles to the north-east of Jerusalem, he trod for the first time upon Benjaminitish territory, which was under the sway of Judaea. The name of this ‘Ai, which signifies “stone-heap,” tallies, as Knobel observes, with the name of the Tell elhagar, which is situated about three-quarters of an hour to the south-east of Beitîn, i.e., Bethel. But there are tombs, reservoirs, and ruins to be seen about an hour to the south-east of Beitin; and these Robinson associates with Ai. From Ai, however, the army will not proceed towards Jerusalem by the ordinary route, viz., the great north road (or “Nablus road”); but, in order to surprise Jerusalem, it takes a different route, in which it will have to cross three deep and difficult valleys. From Ai they pass to Migron, the name of which has apparently been preserved in the ruins of Burg Magrun, situated about eight minutes’ walk from Beitin. f65 Michmash is still to be found in the form of a deserted village with ruins, under the name of Muchmâs, on the eastern side of the valley of Migron.
Here they deposit their baggage (hiphkid, Jer 36:20), so far as they are able to dispense with it-either to leave it lying there, or to have it conveyed after them by an easier route. For they proceed thence through the pass of Michmash, a deep and precipitous ravine about forty-eight minutes in breadth, the present Wady Suweinit. “The pass” (ma’bârâh) is the defile of Michmash, with two prominent rocky cliffs, where Jonathan had his adventure with the garrison of the Philistines. One of these cliffs was called Seneh (1 Sam 14:4), a name which suggests es-Suweinit. Through this defile they pass, encouraging one another, as they proceed along the difficult march, by the prospect of passing the night in Geba, which is close at hand. It is still disputed whether this Geba is the same place as the following Gibeah of Saul or not. There is at the present time a village called Geba’ below Muchmâs, situated upon an eminence. The almost universal opinion now is, that this is not Gibeah of Saul, but that the latter is to be seen in the prominent Tell (Tuleil) el-Fûl, which is situated farther south. This is possibly correct. f66 For there can be no doubt that this mountain, the name of which signifies “Bean-hill,” would be a very strong position, and one very suitable for Gibeah of Saul; and the supposition that there were two places in Benjamin named Geba, Gibeah, or Gibeath, is favoured at any rate by Josh 18:21-28, where Geba and Gibeath are distinguished from one another. And this mountain, which is situated to the south of er-Râm-that is to say, between the ancient Ramah and Anathoth-tallies very well with the route of the Assyrian as here described; whilst it is very improbable that Isaiah has designated the very same place first of all Geba, and then (for what reason no one can tell) Gibeah of Saul. We therefore adopt the view, that the Assyrian army took up its quarters for the night at Geba, which still bears this name, spreading terror in all directions, both east and west, and still more towards the south. Starting in the morning from the deep valley between Michmash and Geba, they pass on one side of Rama (the present er-Râm), situated half an hour to the west of Geba, which trembles as it sees them go by; and the inhabitants of Gibeath of Saul, upon the “Beanhill,” a height that commands the whole of the surrounding country, take to flight when they pass by. Every halting-place on their route brings them nearer to Jerusalem. The prophet goes in spirit through it all. It is so objectively real to him, that it produces the utmost anxiety and pain. The cities and villages of the district are lost.
He appeals to the daughter, i.e., the population, of Gallim, to raise a farsounding yell of lamentation with their voice (Ges. §138, 1, Anm. 3), and calls out in deep sympathy to Laysha, which was close by (on the two places, both of which have vanished now, see 1 Sam 25:44 and Judg 18:29), “only listen,” the enemy is coming nearer and nearer; and then for Anathoth (‘Anâtâ, still to be seen about an hour and a quarter to the north of Jerusalem) he utters this lamentation (taking the name as an omen of its fate): O poor Anathoth! There is no necessity for any alteration of the text; ‘anniyâh is an appeal, or rather an exclamation, as in Isa 54:11; and ‘anâthoth follows, according to the same verbal order as in Isa 23:12, unless indeed we take it at once as an adjective written before the noun-an arrangement of the words which may possibly have been admissible in such interjectional sentences.
The catastrophe so much to be dreaded by Jerusalem draws nearer and nearer. Madmenah (dung-hill, see Comm. on Job, at Isa 9:11-15) flees in anxious haste: the inhabitants of Gebim (water-pits) carry off their possessions `zW[ , from `zW[ , to flee, related to chush, hence to carry off in flight, to bring in haste to a place of security, Ex 9:19, cf., Jer 4:6; 6:1; synonymous with heeniis, Ex 9:20; Judg 6:11; different from ‘âzaz, to be firm, strong, defiant, from which mâ’oz, a fortress, is derived-in distinction from the Arabic ma’âdh, a place of refuge: comp. Isa 30:2, to flee to Pharaoh’s shelter). There are no traces left of either place. The passage is generally understood as implying that the army rested another day in Nob.
But this would be altogether at variance with the design-to take Jerusalem by surprise by the suddenness of the destructive blow.
We therefore render it, “Even to-day he will halt in Nob” (in eo est ut subsistat, Ges. §132, Anm. 1)-namely, to gather up fresh strength there in front of the city which was doomed to destruction, and to arrange the plan of attack. The supposition that Nob was the village of el-’Isawiye, which is still inhabited, and lies to the south-west of Anâta, fifty-five minutes to the north of Jerusalem, is at variance with the situation, as correctly described by Jerome, when he says: “Stans in oppidulo Nob et procul urbem conspiciens Jerusalem.” A far more appropriate situation is to be found in the hill which rises to the north of Jerusalem, and which is called Sadr, from its breast-like projection or roundness-a name which is related in meaning to nob, nâb, to rise (see Gen. p. 635). From this eminence the way leads down into the valley of Kidron; and as you descend, the city spreads out before you at a very little distance off. It may have been here, in the prophet’s view, that the Assyrians halted. f67 It was not long, however (as the yenoopheeph which follows asunde’toos implies), before his hand was drawn out to strike (Isa 11:15; 19:16), and swing over the mountain of the daughter of Zion (Isa 16:1), over the city of the holy hill. But what would Jehovah do, who was the only One who could save His threatened dwelling-place in the face of such an army? As far as v. 32a, the prophet’s address moved on at a hurried, stormy pace; it then halted, and seemed, as it were, panting with anxiety; it now breaks forth in a dactylic movement, like a long rolling thunder. The hostile army stands in front of Jerusalem, like a broad dense forest. But it is soon manifest that Jerusalem has a God who cannot be defied with impunity, and who will not leave His city in the lurch at the decisive moment, like the gods of Carchemish and Calno. Jehovah is the Lord, the God of both spiritual and starry hosts.
He smites down the branches of this forest of an army: see’eeph is a socalled piel privativum, to lop (lit. to take the branches in hand; cf., sikkeel, Isa 5:2); and pu’rah = pe’urah (in Ezekiel poo’rah) is used like the Latin frons, to include both branches and foliage-in other words, the leafy branches as the ornament of the tree, or the branches as adorned with leaves. The instrument He employs is ma’arâtzâh, his terrifying and crushing power (compare the verb in Isa 2:19,21). And even the lofty trunks of the forest thus cleared of branches and leaves do not remain; they lie hewn down, and the lofty ones must fall. It is just the same with the trunks, i.e., the leaders, as with the branches and the foliage, i.e., with the great crowded masses. The whole of the forest thicket (as in Isa 9:17) he hews down (nikkaph, third pers. piel, though it may also be niphal); and Lebanon, i.e., the army of Asshur which is now standing opposite to Mount Zion, like Lebanon with its forest of cedars, falls down through a Majestic One (‘addiir), i.e., through Jehovah (Isa 33:21, cf., Ps 76:5; 93:4).
In the account of the fulfilment (Isa 37:36) it is the angel of the Lord (mal’ach Jehovah), who is represented as destroying the hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp in a single night. The angel of Jehovah is not a messenger of God sent from afar, but the chosen organ of the ever-present divine power.
This is the fate of the imperial power of the world. When the axe is laid to it, it falls without hope. But in Israel spring is returning. Ch. Isa 11:1. “And there cometh forth a twig out of the stump of Jesse, and a shoot from its roots bringeth forth fruit.” The world-power resembles the cedar-forest of Lebanon; the house of David, on the other hand, because of its apostasy, is like the stump of a felled tree (geza’, truncus, from gâza’, truncare), like a root without stem, branches, or crown. The world-kingdom, at the height of its power, presents the most striking contrast to Israel and the house of David in the uttermost depth announced in ch. 6 fin., mutilated and reduced to the lowliness of its Bethlehemitish origin. But whereas the Lebanon of the imperial power is thrown down, to remain prostrate; the house of David renews its youth. And whilst the former has no sooner reached the summit of its glory, than it is suddenly cast down; the latter, having been reduced to the utmost danger of destruction, is suddenly exalted.
What Pliny says of certain trees, “inarescunt rursusque adolescunt, senescunt quidem, sed e radicibus repullulant,” is fulfilled in the tree of Davidic royalty, that has its roots in Jesse (for the figure itself, see F. v.
Lasaulx, Philosophie der Geschichte, pp. 117-119). Out of the stumps of Jesse, i.e., out of the remnant of the chosen royal family which has sunk down to the insignificance of the house from which it sprang, there comes forth a twig (choter), which promises to supply the place of the trunk and crown; and down below, in the roots covered with earth, and only rising a little above it, there shows itself a neetzer, i.e., a fresh green shoot (from nâtzeer, to shine or blossom). In the historical account of the fulfilment, even the ring of the words of the prophecy is noticed: the neetzer, at first so humble and insignificant, was a poor despised Nazarene (Matt 2:23).
But the expression yiphreh shows at once that it will not stop at this lowliness of origin. The shoot will bring forth fruit (pârâh, different in meaning, and possibly also in root, from pârach, to blossom and bud). In the humble beginning there lies a power which will carry it up to a great height by a steady and certain process (Ezek 17:22-23). The twig which is shooting up on the ground will become a tree, and this tree will have a crown laden with fruit. Consequently the state of humiliation will be followed by one of exaltation and perfection.
Jehovah acknowledges Him, and consecrates and equips Him for His great work with the seven spirits. V. 2. “And the Spirit of Jehovah descends upon Him, spirit of wisdom and understanding, spirit of counsel and might, spirit of knowledge and fear of Jehovah.” “The Spirit of Jehovah” (ruach Yehovah) is the Divine Spirit, as the communicative vehicle of the whole creative fulness of divine powers. Then follow the six spirits, comprehended by the ruach Yehovah in three pairs, of which the first relates to the intellectual life, the second to the practical life, and the third to the direct relation to God. For chocmâh (wisdom) is the power of discerning the nature of things through the appearance, and biinâh (understanding) the power of discerning the differences of things in their appearance; the former is sofi>a , the latter dia>krisiv or su>nesiv . “Counsel” (‘etzâh) is the gift of forming right conclusions, and “might” (gebuurâh) the ability to carry them out with energy. “The knowledge of Jehovah” (da’ath Yehovah) is knowledge founded upon the fellowship of love; and “the fear of Jehovah” (yir’ath Yehovâh), fear absorbed in reverence. There are seven spirits, which are enumerated in order from the highest downwards; since the spirit of the fear of Jehovah is the basis of the whole (Prov 1:7; Job 28:28; Ps 111:10), and the Spirit of Jehovah is the heart of all. It corresponds to the shaft of the seven-lighted candlestick, and the three pair of arms that proceeded from it. In these seven forms the Holy Spirit descended upon the second David for a permanent possession, as is affirmed in the perf. consec. jæWn (with the tone upon the ultimate, on account of the following guttural, to prevent its being pronounced unintelligibly; The seven torches before the throne of God (Rev 4:5, cf., Isa 1:4) burn and give light in His soul. The seven spirits are His seven eyes (Rev 5:6).
And His regal conduct is regulated by this His thoroughly spiritual nature.
V. 3. “And fear of Jehovah is fragrance to Him; and He judges not according to outward sight, neither does He pass sentence according to outward hearing.” We must not render it: His smelling is the smelling of the fear of God, i.e., the penetration of it with a keen judicial insight (as Hengstenberg and Umbreit understand it); for heeriiach with the preposition Beth has not merely the signification to smell (as when followed by an accusative, Job 39:25), but to smell with satisfaction (like b] ha;r; , to see with satisfaction), Ex 30:38; Lev 26:31; Amos 5:21. The fear of God is that which He smells with satisfaction; it is reeach niichoach to Him. Meier’s objection, that fear of God is not a thing that can be smelt, and therefore that heeriiach must signify to breathe, is a trivial one. Just as the outward man has five senses for the material world, the inner man has also a sensorium for the spiritual world, which discerns different things in different ways. Thus the second David scents the fear of God, and only the fear of God, as a pleasant fragrance; for the fear of God is a sacrifice of adoration continually ascending to God. His favour or displeasure does not depend upon brilliant or repulsive external qualities; He does not judge according to outward appearances, but according to the relation of the heart to His God.
This is the standard according to which He will judge when saving, and judge when punishing. Vv. 4, 5. “And judges the poor with righteousness, and passes sentence with equity for the humble in the land; and smites the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He slays the wicked. And righteousness is the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His hips.” The main feature in v. 4 is to be seen in the objective ideas. He will do justice to the dallim, the weak and helpless, by adopting an incorruptibly righteous course towards their oppressors, and decide with straightforwardness for the humble or meek of the land: ‘ânâv, like ‘ânii, from ‘ânâh, to bend, the latter denoting a person bowed down by misfortune, the former a person inwardly bowed down, i.e., from all selfconceit (hoociiach l’, as in Job 16:21). The poor and humble, or meek, are the peculiar objects of His royal care; just as it was really to them that the first beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount applied.
But “the earth” and “the wicked” (the latter is not to be understood collectively, but, as in several passages in the Old Testament, viz., Ps 68:22; 110:6; Hab 3:13-14, as pointing forward prophetically to an eschatological person, in whom hostility towards Jehovah and His Anointed culminates most satanically) will experience the full force of His penal righteousness. The very word of His mouth is a rod which shatters in pieces (Ps 2:9; Rev 1:16); and the breath of His lips is sufficient to destroy, without standing in need of any further means (2 Thess 2:8). As the girdle upon the hips (mothnaim, LXX th>n osfu>n ), and in front upon the loins (chalâzaim, LXX ta>v pleura>v ), fastens the clothes together, so all the qualities and active powers of His person have for their band tzedâkâh, which follows the inviolable norm of the divine will, and hâ’emuunâh, which holds immovably to the course divinely appointed, according to promise (Isa 25:1). Special prominence is given by the article to ‘emuunâh; He is the faithful and true witness (Rev 1:5; 3:14). Consequently with Him there commences a new epoch, in which the Son of David and His righteousness acquire a world-subduing force, and find their home in a humanity that has sprung, like Himself, out of deep humiliation. ISAIAH 11:6-9 The fruit of righteousness is peace, which now reigns in humanity under the rule of the Prince of Peace, and even in the animal world, with nothing whatever to disturb it. Vv. 6-9. “And the wolf dwells with the lamb, and the leopard lies down with the kid; and calf and lion and stalled ox together: a little boy drives them. And cow and bear go to the pasture; their young ones lie down together: and the lion eats shopped straw like the ox. And the suckling plays by the hole of the adder, and the weaned child stretches its hand to the pupil of the basilisk-viper. They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the land is filled with knowledge of Jehovah, like the waters covering the sea.” The fathers, and such commentators as Luther, Calvin, and Vitringa, have taken all these figures from the animal world as symbolical. Modern rationalists, on the other hand, understand them literally, but regard the whole as a beautiful dream and wish.
It is a prophecy, however, the realization of which is to be expected on this side of the boundary between time and eternity, and, as Paul has shown in Rom 8, is an integral link in the predestined course of the history of salvation (Hengstenberg, Umbreit, Hofmann, Drechsler). There now reign among irrational creatures, from the greatest to the least-even among such as are invisible-fierce conflicts and bloodthirstiness of the most savage kind. But when the Son of David enters upon the full possession of His royal inheritance, the peace of paradise will be renewed, and all that is true in the popular legends of the golden age be realized and confirmed. This is what the prophet depicts in such lovely colours. The wolf and lamb, those two hereditary foes, will be perfectly reconciled then. The leopard will let the teazing kid lie down beside it. The lion, between the calf and stalled ox, neither seizes upon its weaker neighbour, nor longs for the fatter one.
Cow and bear graze together, whilst their young ones lie side beside in the pasture. The lion no longer thirsts for blood, but contents itself, like the ox, with chopped straw. The suckling pursues its sport (pilpel of [[æv; , mulcere) by the adder’s hole, and the child just weaned stretches out its hand boldly and fearlessly to me’uurath tziph’ooni. It is evident from Jer 8:17 that tziph’ooni is the name of a species of snake. According to Aquila and the Vulgate, it is basiliskos, serpens regulus, possibly from tzaph, to pipe or hiss (Ges., Fürst); for Isidorus, in his Origg. xii. 4, says, Sibilus idem est qui et regulus; sibilo enim occidit, antequam mordeat vel exurat. For the hapax leg. hâdâh, the meaning dirigere, tendere, is established by the Arabic; but there is all the more uncertainty about the meaning of the aJp . leg . hrwam . According to the parallel rwOj , it seems to signify the hollow (Syr., Vulg., LXX, koi>th ): whether from rWa = `rW[ , from which comes hr;[;m] ; or from rwOa , the light-hole (like rwOam; , which occurs in the Mishna, Ohaloth xiii. 1) or opening where a cavern opens to the light of day.
It is probable, however, that me’uurâh refers to something that exerts an attractive influence upon the child, either the “blending of colours” (Saad. renders tziph’oni, errakas’, the motley snake), or better still, the “pupil of the eye” (Targum), taking the word as a feminine of mâ’oor, the light of the eye (b. Erubin 55b - the power of vision). The look of a snake, more especially of the basilisk (not merely the basilisk-lizard, but also the basilisk-viper), was supposed to have a paralyzing and bewitching influence; but now the snake will lose this pernicious power (Isa 65:25), and the basilisk become so tame and harmless, as to let children handle its sparkling eyes as if they were jewels. All this, as we should say with Luthardt and Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, ii. 2, 567), is only colouring which the hand of the prophet employs, for the purpose of painting the peace of that glorified state which surpasses all possibility of description; and it is unquestionably necessary to take the thought of the promise in a spiritual sense, without adhering literally to the medium employed in expressing it.
But, on the other hand, we must guard against treating the description itself as merely a drapery thrown around the actual object; whereas it is rather the refraction of the object in the mind of the prophet himself, and therefore a manifestation of the true nature of that which he actually saw.
But are the animals to be taken as the subject in v. 9 also? The subject that most naturally suggests itself is undoubtedly the animals, of which a few that are alarming and destructive to men have been mentioned just before.
And the fact that they really are thought of as the subject, is confirmed by Isa 65:25, where ch. 11:6-9a is repeated in a compendious form. The idea that [[ær; requires men as the subject, is refuted by the common [ræ yjæ (compare the parallel promise in Ezek 34:25, which rests upon Hos 2:20).
That the term yashchithu can be applied to animals, is evident from Jer 2:30, and may be assumed as a matter of course. But if the animals are the subject, har kodshi (my holy mountain) is not Zion-Moriah, upon which wild beasts never made their home in historical times; but, as the generalizing col (all) clearly shows, the whole of the holy mountain-land of Israel: har kodshi has just this meaning in Isa 57:13 (cf., Ps 78:54; Ex 15:17).
The fact that peace prevails in the animal world, and also peace between man and beast, is then attributed to the universal prevalence of the knowledge of God, in consequence of which that destructive hostility between the animal world and man, by which estrangement and apostasy from God were so often punished (2 Kings 17:25; Ezek 14:15, etc.: see also Isa 7:24), have entirely come to an end. The meaning of “the earth” is also determined by that of “all my holy mountain.” The land of Israel, the dominion of the Son of David in the more restricted sense, will be from this time forward the paradisaical centre, as it were, of the whole earth-a prelude of its future state of perfect and universal glorification (Isa 6:3, “all the earth”). It has now become full of “the knowledge of Jehovah,” i.e., of that experimental knowledge which consists in the fellowship of love h[;De , like dlæy; , is a secondary form of t[æDæ , the more common infinitive or verbal noun from [dæy; : Ges. §133, 1), like the waters which cover the sea, i.e., bottom of the sea (compare Hab 2:14, where lâda’ath is a virtual accusative, full of that which is to be known). “Cover:” cissâh l’ (like sâcac l’, Ps 91:4), signifies to afford a covering to another; the Lamed is frequently introduced with a participle (in Arabic regularly) as a sign of the object (Ewald, §292, e), and the omission of the article in the case of mecassim is a natural consequence of the inverted order of the words.
The prophet has now described, in vv. 1-5, the righteous conduct of the Son of David, and in vv. 6-9 the peace which prevails under His government, and extends even to the animal world, and which is consequent upon the living knowledge of God that has now become universal, that is to say, of the spiritual transformation of the people subject to His sway-an allusion full of enigmas, but one which is more clearly expounded in the following verse, both in its direct contents and also in all that it presupposes. V. 10. “And it will come to pass in that day: the rootsprout of Jesse, which stands as a banner of the peoples, for it will nations ask, and its place of rest is glory.” The first question which is disposed of here, has reference to the apparent restriction thus far of all the blessings of this peaceful rule to Israel and the land of Israel. This restriction, as we now learn, is not for its own sake, but is simply the means of an unlimited extension of this fulness of blessing.
The proud tree of the Davidic sovereignty is hewn down, and nothing is left except the root. The new David is shoresh Yishai (the root-sprout of Jesse), and therefore in a certain sense the root itself, because the latter would long ago have perished if it had not borne within itself from the very commencement Him who was now about to issue from it. But when He who had been concealed in the root of Jesse as its sap and strength should have become the rejuvenated root of Jesse itself (cf., Rev 22:16), He would be exalted from this lowly beginning l’nees ‘ammin, into a banner summoning the nations to assemble, and uniting them around itself. Thus visible to all the world, He would attract the attention of the heathen to Himself, and they would turn to Him with zeal, and His menuchâh, i.e., the place where He had settled down to live and reign (for the word in this local sense, compare Num 10:33 and Ps 132:8,14), would be glory, i.e., the dwelling-place and palace of a king whose light shines over all, who has all beneath His rule, and who gathers all nations around Himself. The Vulgate renders it “et sepulcrum ejus gloriosum” (a leading passage for encouraging pilgrimages), but the passion is here entirely swallowed up by the splendour of the figure of royalty; and menuchah is no more the place of rest in the grave than nees is the cross, although undoubtedly the cross has become the banner in the actual fulfilment, which divides the parousia of Christ into a first and second coming.
A second question also concerns Israel. The nation out of which and for which this king will primarily arise, will before that time be scattered far away from its native land, in accordance with the revelation in ch. 6. How, then, will it be possible for Him to reign in the midst of it?-Vv. 11, 12. “And it will come to pass in that day, the Lord will stretch out His hand again a second time to redeem the remnant of His people that shall be left, out of Asshur, and out of Egypt, and out of Pathros, and out of Ethiopia, and out of ‘Elam, and out of Shinar, and out of Hamath, and out of the islands of the sea. And he raises a banner for the nations, and fetches home the outcasts of Israel; and the dispersed of Judah will He assemble from the four borders of the earth.” Asshur and Egypt stand here in front, and side by side, as the two great powers of the time of Isaiah (cf., Isa 7:18-20). As appendices to Egypt, we have (1) Pathros, hierogl. to-rees, and with the article petorees, the southland, i.e., Upper Egypt, so that Mizraim in the stricter sense is Lower Egypt (see, on the other hand, Jer 44:15); and (2) Cush, the land which lies still farther south than Upper Egypt on both sides of the Arabian Gulf; and as appendices to Asshur, (1) ‘Elam, i.e., Elymais, in southern Media, to the east of the Tigris; and (2) Shinar, the plain to the south of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris. Then follow the Syrian Hamath at the northern foot of the Lebanon; and lastly, “the islands of the sea,” i.e., the islands and coast-land of the Mediterranean, together with the whole of the insular continent of Europe. There was no such diaspora of Israel at the time when the prophet uttered this prediction, nor indeed even after the dissolution of the northern kingdom; so that the specification is not historical, but prophetic.
The redemption which the prophet here foretells is a second, to be followed by no third; consequently the banishment out of which Israel is redeemed is the ultimate form of that which is threatened in Isa 6:12 (cf., Deut 30:1ff.). It is the second redemption, the counterpart of the Egyptian.
He will then stretch out His hand again (yoosiph, supply lishloach); and as He once delivered Israel out of Egypt, so will He now redeem it-purchase it back (kânâh, opp. mâcar) out of all the countries named. The min attached to the names of the countries is to be construed with liknooth.
Observe how, in the prophet’s view, the conversion of the heathen becomes the means of the redemption of Israel. The course which the history of salvation has taken since the first coming of Christ, and which is will continue to take to the end, as described by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, is distinctly indicated by the prophet. At the word of Jehovah the heathen will set His people free, and even escort them (Isa 49:22; 62:10); and thus He will gather again (‘âsaph, with