Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It shall be in that day. Returning now to the elect people, he describes the result of the chastisement which was at hand. As it is painful and disagreeable to us to endure calamities and afflictions, and as we refuse them so far as lies in our power, the Lord points out to us the result of them, that we may be taught to consider the design of them, and may thus bear more patiently: as if he had said, “You would wish that the Assyrians were driven to a great distance from you, and that you could live in comfort and safety. But consider, that this chastisement is as necessary as medicine would be for curing your diseases; for you do not acknowledge the power of God, and you withdraw your confidence from him to give it to wicked men. It is truly wretched to place the hope of salvation in enemies, and to rely on those who aim at nothing but your destruction.” In like manner, Israel relied sometimes on the Assyrians and sometimes on the Egyptians.
But shall stay upon the Lord We ought not to despise this compensation made for the diminished numbers of the people, that the small portion which survived the calamity learned to place their hope in God. Hence we see more clearly how necessary it was that God should chastise Israel. The mitigation which he holds out, that still a remnant is left, among whom the true worship of God is maintained, is fitted to yield very high consolation.
In truth. This phrase is not superfluous; for until the Lord had afflicted them, all wished to be accounted the children of Abraham — all made profession of the faith, and indiscriminately worshipped God; but it was mere pretense. Isaiah therefore reproves this hypocrisy, and says that their hope will afterwards be true and sincere when they shall have been cleansed from impostures; for although they very haughtily boasted of their confidence in God, still they continued to place their confidence in the assistance of the Assyrians. Consequently, when they shall be chastised by their hand, they will learn to trust in God alone, and will withdraw their heart from the assistance of men. Hence infer that we cannot place our confidence in God unless we altogether withhold our heart from creatures; for we ought to rely on God alone in such a manner as not to think it a hardship to renounce all other grounds of confidence. Where this perfect confidence does not exist, there is no room for truth; for the heart is divided and double. (Psalm 12:2.)
21. A remnant shall return. This is a confirmation of the former statement. Yet in the words שאר ישוב, (Shear Yashub,) a remnant shall return, there appears to be an allusion to that passage in which Isaiah’s son was called Shear-jashub. (Isaiah 7:3.) In our observations on it, we stated that this peculiar name was given him in reference to the event, that it might be regarded as a pledge of the future deliverance concerning which his father prophesied. It was necessary that the Jews should be confirmed in various ways, that they might be convinced that the Lord would at length bring them back. This is also the design of what he immediately adds —
To the mighty God; that is, to him whom the people, after having returned from their former apostasy, will acknowledge to be the guardian of their salvation. This attribute, mighty, is ascribed to God for the sake of the occasion on which the words were used. He might have thought it sufficient to have expressed power by the name אל, (El,) God, which also signifies mighty; but he chose likewise to add to it גבור, (gibbor,) that is, strong or mighty, in order to excite the people to greater confidence. How was it possible for the people to betake themselves to the Assyrians and Egyptians, but because they did not think that God was sufficient for them? This is the source of all evils, when we are not fully convinced that in God is everything that can be desired for our salvation.
22. For though thy people be. He casts down hypocrites from foolish confidence; for they reckoned it enough to be the descendants of holy Abraham according to the flesh, and, therefore, on the sole ground of their birth, they wished to be accounted holy. Yet he exhorts the godly to patience, that they may learn to await calmly that calamity and diminution of their number, lest, when it took place, it should be unexpected, and give them uneasiness. He therefore comforts them, that they may not be grieved at so great desolation; for the Lord will at least collect a remnant of it.
The consumption decreed. כלה (chalah) means to finish, and it means also to consume. The latter is more appropriate. He calls this diminution of the people a consumption, and one that is completed; for he employs exaggerated language, the import of which is, that they were not far from utter extermination, there being very few that were saved.
The word Israel may be taken either in the genitive case, of Israel, or in the vocative case, O Israel, 168168     That is, the passage may either be rendered, Though thy people of Israel be as the sand of the sea; or, Though thy people, O Israel, be as the sand of sea. — Ed. so that in this way he addresses the patriarch Jacob, or all the godly under his name. But it is of little importance, for the meaning is the same, in whichsoever of these ways it be taken; and therefore it may be read in the genitive case, of Israel. Yet I am more inclined to view it as a proper name, to denote the true, and not the spurious Israelite. The bold address to the patriarch has a striking effect; for God, addressing a dead man, declares to the living that what he had formerly promised, (Genesis 13:16, 22:17,) that the posterity of Abraham would be like the sand of the sea, did not apply to a promiscuous multitude, which had apostatized from godliness, but that there would be a kind of interruption in a corrupt nation, till shortly afterwards it should be renewed.
Overflowing with righteousness, or overflowing righteousness. 169169     Shall overflow with (Heb. in, or, among) righteousness — Eng. Ver. Another consolation is added, that this very small company will overflow righteousness. When we see the Church distressed by such heavy calamities, that we think that it cannot be far from destruction, we are in danger of giving way to despondency, and of entertaining doubts about the mercy of God. Those whose minds are impressed with just views of the judgment of God, feel that this is the severest of all temptations. It was therefore necessary that godly minds should be fortified against it, that they might soothe their grief by pondering the benefit which would result from this calamity. The benefit was, that righteousness would overflow the whole world like a river; and he had formerly noticed this, when he said (Isaiah 10:20) that the remnant would trust in God in truth
The word righteousness is explained in various ways. Some refer it to the preaching of the gospel, because by means of it, as Paul says,
the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, (Romans 1:17;)
and by the agency of the Apostles, who were a small remnant of the Jews, it spread over the whole world. (Mark 16:15.) Others choose rather to view it as meaning that that consumption was an evidence and proof of the righteousness of God in inflicting punishments so severe on his own people. But I prefer a more general exposition of it, namely, “This consumption will be sufficient to fill the whole world with righteousness. The remnant which shall survive it, though small, will be sufficient to cause such rivers of righteousness to flow, that the whole world shall be overflowed by them.”
23. For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption. This repetition again wounds the self-complacency of those who proudly despised God. It was almost incredible that the Jews, to whom so many promises had been given, and with whom God had made an everlasting covenant, should perish, as it were, in an instant; and it appeared to be even inconsistent with the unchangeable nature of God. The Prophet therefore declares that the Lord is the author of this consumption, in order to repress the pride of wicked men, who, relying on their present prosperity, thought that they were beyond all danger, and, swelling with that confidence, ridiculed all threats and warnings. “God,” says he, “will reduce your land to a desert, so that in the very midst it will be desolate, and will resemble a wilderness.”
In the midst of all the land. By the midst of the land he means its very heart, that is, its most fortified and best defended places. Some think that the word נהרצה (neheratzah) is an adjective, determined; but for my part I view it as a substantive, consummation; 170170     The Author’s version is, because a consumption and consummation will the Lord Jehovah of hosts make. — Ed. and in this sense it is used by Daniel and in other passages. (Daniel 9:27.)
Paul quotes this passage, (Romans 9:28,) but in somewhat different words from what the Prophet uses; for he follows the ordinary translation which at that time was generally used. Though Paul wrote correctly and faithfully, and in accordance with the Prophet’s real meaning, yet the words which he quotes from the Greek translation have led many to depart from what the Prophet actually meant. The Greek translator having used the word λόγος, (logos,) that is, a discourse, many have entered into discussions about the Gospel, and have said that it denotes the repeal of the law, because it puts an end to ceremonies and figures, and therefore that it is a short and concise discourse, by which we are freed from the burden of the law under which the people groaned. But that has nothing to do with the Prophet’s meaning; for here he says that the consumption is a diminution, by which the people will be almost ruined. Paul’s design is not different, and the Greek translators meant nothing else; for by λόγος (logos) they meant what is expressed by the Hebrew word דבר, (dabar.) Though the Prophet does not make use of the word דבר, (dabar,) yet the word which he uses means a thing consumed, that is, consumption, and the meaning of both words is the same. In short, Paul there repeats (Romans 9:28) what Isaiah had said in this passage about the future consumption of the people, and shows that this prediction was chiefly fulfilled in his own time, when the Jews were cut off from the kingdom of God on account of their ingratitude, and but a small remnant (Isaiah 1:9, 10:22) was preserved.
24. Therefore, thus saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts. He goes on with the same consolation, which belongs to the godly alone, who at that time, undoubtedly, were few in number. A great number of persons gloried in the name of God, and wished to be accounted his people; but there were few who actually performed what they professed in words; and, therefore, he does not address all without reserve, but only those who needed consolation. The kingdom having been destroyed, they might entertain fears about themselves and their affairs, and might judge of their own condition from that of others, and therefore it was necessary to comfort them. This distinction ought to be observed, for otherwise it would be inconsistent to address to the same persons statements so different.
And shall lift up his staff against thee in the way of Egypt 171171     After the manner of Egypt. — Eng. Ver. He adds a ground of consolation, namely, that that calamity will be nothing else than the lifting up of a rod to chastise, but not to destroy them. The preposition ב (beth) denotes resemblance. דרך (derech) means a pattern, and therefore I render it, after the pattern of Egypt. As if he had said, “Though the Assyrian be cruel, and in many ways aim at thy destruction, yet he shall only wound, he shall not slay thee.” He therefore mentioned the pattern of the Egyptian bondage, which was indeed very wretched, but yet was not deadly. (Exodus 1:14, 12:51.) It is customary with the Prophets, amidst perplexity or disorder, to remind the people to contemplate that deliverance by which God miraculously rescued them from the hands of Pharaoh, who was a most cruel tyrant. The meaning therefore is, “As the Lord was at that time victorious, and destroyed the Egyptians who had leagued for your destruction, so now he will quickly vanquish the Assyrians.”
Others render it, in the way of Egypt, because the Assyrians made war against the Jews on account of the Egyptians. But that exposition cannot be admitted; and if we carefully examine the matter, it will be found that there is none more appropriate than that which I have proposed, and which is also approved by the most learned commentators. There are two clauses which form a contrast; the oppression which the Egyptians laid upon them, and the calamity which should be inflicted soon afterwards by the Assyrians. “As the oppression of the Egyptians was not deadly, so neither will the oppression of the Assyrians be. You have had experience of my strength and power against Pharaoh, and so will you find it on Sennacherib.” If we did not explain the clauses in this way, they would not agree with each other.
25. But yet a little while. He means not only the siege of Jerusalem, when Sennacherib surrounded it with a numerous army, (2 Kings 18:17,) but likewise the rest of the calamities, when Jerusalem was overthrown, (2 Kings 25:4,) the Temple razed, and the inhabitants taken prisoners; for against those dreadful calamities it was necessary that the godly should be fortified by these promises. This ought to be carefully observed; for if we neglect it, as other commentators do, we shall not be able to see how the statements agree. Accordingly, the captivity of the people might be called a consumption; for Babylon was like a grave, and banishment was like death. But when the danger was immediate and urgent, and Sennacherib attacked them with his army, and various straits were felt by them in that siege, this consolation was needful; for Judea seemed to be utterly ruined, and to outward appearance no hope of safety was left.
My fury and indignation shall be spent. 172172     The indignation shall cease, and mine anger. — Eng. Ver. The consolation corresponds to this state of things. “The Lord will spare thee. For a time, indeed, he will delay, and will keep his assistance as it were concealed; but he will at length rescue thee, and will revenge thy enemies whom he has determined utterly to destroy.” If it be thought better to interpret כלה (chalah) as meaning to consume or spend, then he says that he spends his anger, in the same way that we speak of spending years and our whole life; that is, “I will cherish my anger until I completely destroy the Assyrians.” But the word finish brings out the meaning more fully; as if he had said, “until I have discharged all my anger.” This is the destruction which he also threatens elsewhere (Isaiah 52:1) to the uncircumcised; for when the hope of mercy has been taken away, he executes his judgment against the ungodly.
26. And the LORD of hosts will stir up a scourge for him. Here Isaiah makes use of the word scourge, and not rod, meaning that the Lord will treat the enemies much more harshly and severely than they had treated the Jews. He threatens them with extermination, and makes it more evident by two examples; first, that of the Midianites, (Judges 7:25,) who were cut off by a dreadful slaughter in the valley of Oreb, which was so named from their leader, and, secondly, that of the Egyptians, whom the Lord, when they pursued after his people, sank in the Red Sea. (Exodus 14:27, 28.) In the former passage, he refers to a narrative which was somewhat more recent, and in the latter to one that was more ancient.
Hence we infer that the Lord hath displayed his power in defending his Church, in order that, when our affairs are in the most desperate state, we may remain steadfastly in the faith, and, relying on his grace, we still may cherish a pleasing hope. By means and in ways that are unexpected he often delivers his Church, as he did by the hands of Gideon and Moses. We ought always, therefore, to call to remembrance those benefits, that we may be excited more and more to confidence and perseverance.
Hence we ought also to infer that all the afflictions which we endure are the Lord’s rods with which he chastises us; and yet he does not permit Satan or his agents to inflict deadly chastisements upon us. On the other hand, an awful destruction awaits our enemies, as we see in the Midianites and Egyptians. It is therefore no small consolation that, when we compare our condition with theirs, we see them, for a time indeed, in all the madness of joy and of wickedness insulting the children of God, but at the same time learn what a dreadful sentence has been pronounced against them; for they are devoted to deadly and everlasting destruction.
27. And it shall come to pass in that day. It is uncertain whether he now speaks of the deliverance which took place under Zerubbabel, (2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:2,) or of that wonderful overthrow of Sennacherib, (2 Kings 19:35,) when he besieged Jerusalem with a huge army. This latter opinion is almost universally preferred; and indeed it appears to be supported by what follows, for immediately afterwards he gives a description of the country, and enumerates the chief places through which Sennacherib should conduct his army, till he arrived at Jerusalem itself, so that there appeared to be nothing at all to hinder him from taking possession of the city. With this opinion I partly agree, but I extend the prediction farther.
Isaiah intends to comfort the godly who were involved in the present distress. It might be thought that the promise failed, and that the calamities which immediately followed were utterly at variance with it. For instance, if the Lord promise to give me food for next year, and yet leave me altogether destitute of it, what faith can I have in a promise so distant, if the Lord do not rescue me from the present distress? Thus, the Lord’s promise, in which he had said that he would deliver his people from Babylon, and would continually assist them, may be thought to have failed, when it was exposed to the jaws of that huge wild beast. With the view of meeting this objection, the Prophet includes both promises, that the Lord will be the guardian of his people, till at length he deliver them from death. Some limit it to the slaughter (2 Kings 19:35) of Sennacherib’s army; but as Isaiah promises the loosing, or breaking of the yoke, I have no doubt that he describes deliverance from captivity. Yet he confirms the promise, that God will not only rescue them from Babylon, but will also aid them against the besieging army of the tyrant, whom he will not suffer to go beyond what has been threatened.
That his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, He describes that tyranny in two ways, in order to illustrate more fully how great was the blessing of deliverance. If it be thought best to refer it to Sennacherib, he had not laid on the Jews so grievous a yoke. The people paid only some tribute, as we learn from sacred history. (2 Kings 23:33; 2 Chronicles 36:3.) Why then has he employed two names in describing this tyranny? It may be pleaded that he had in his eye the approaching danger; for that tyrant, like a huge beast of prey, had devoured the whole of Judea by his voraciousness, and had oppressed them to such an extent, that it appeared to be almost impossible that his yoke could ever be taken off. But I have already explained the view which I prefer, that he describes the uninterrupted course of the favor of God down to the time of redemption.
And the yoke shall be destroyed from the face of the anointing. 173173     Because of the anointing. — Eng. Ver. The phrase, the face of the anointing, is explained by some to mean the fatness with which the yoke is besmeared. But that interpretation is too farfetched. Others more correctly view שמן (shamen) as bearing its ordinary signification, and as denoting anointing or oil. He again reminds them of Christ, and shows that through his kindness they will be delivered from that tyranny. Anointing is the name given to that kingdom which the Lord had set apart for himself, and which he therefore wished to keep unspotted and undiminished. When the Prophets intend to applaud the majesty of that kingdom, they speak of the anointing which the Lord had bestowed on it as a distinguishing mark, because it was a type of Christ. (Psalm 45:7, 89:20; Isaiah 61:1; Daniel 9:24.) Though God established the rest of the kingdoms, still they were in some respects profane; this ranked above them as holy and sacred, because the Lord reigned over Judea in a peculiar manner, and because under this figure of a kingdom he held up Christ to their view. For this reason, also, it was promised to Solomon that his throne would be everlasting. (2 Samuel 7:13; 1 Chronicles 22:10; Psalm 89:5.) As to the interpretation given by some, that שמן (shamen) denotes the king himself, not only is it too farfetched, but it conveys no solid instruction.
The Prophet therefore points out the means of overthrowing that tyranny; for it appeared as if there were no reason to believe that the yoke of so powerful a tyrant would be broken. He shows that this will arise from the heavenly anointing of that kingdom, that all may perceive that this benefit depends on the power of Christ, and not on the ability of man or on chance.
28. He is come to Aiath. The siege of the holy city being now at hand, Isaiah sets before their eyes the whole of Sennacherib’s march, that the hearts of the godly, by long and careful study of it, may remain steadfast. This delineation was powerfully calculated to allay their fears, when godly men saw that the Assyrians did not move a step but by the appointment of God; for by the mouth of the Prophet he had given a lively description of the whole of that march. 174174     “Here is a lively description of the march of Sennacherib’s army, not that related below in chapter 36:1-22, but in his first invasion of Judea, when he passed Jerusalem to the northward on his way to Egypt; for so the places here mentioned indicate, stretching in order from the north to the west and south of that capital.” — Rosenmuller. It is unnecessary to spend much time in explaining the relative position of the places here named, for it is enough if we understand that Sennacherib marched through those places of which the Jews had been informed.
At Michmash he will lay up his baggage. The words which we render, He will lay up his baggage or armor, are translated by some, He hath made a muster; for פקד (pakad) signifies also to number. I do not dislike this interpretation, but prefer the former; for I understand the Prophet to mean that the Assyrian will lay up his armor, that is, the provisions, and the rest of the implements of war, in Michmash. It is the custom of warriors not to lead forward an army without providing the means of support, which they lay up in a safe and convenient place, that the army may be supplied out of it with all that is needful. Under the word baggage or arms, he includes not only darts and swords, but all the supplies and provisions of war. The meaning of the word כלי (cheli) is extensive, and includes every kind of implements, and thus resembles the word (vasa) which denotes vessels in the Latin language.
29. They have crossed the ford. 175175     They are gone over the passage. — Eng. Ver. Some understand by this the passage of the Jordan, but I do not know if it could be crossed by a ford in that quarter. 176176     “They have passed the strait. The strait here mentioned is that of Michmas, a very narrow passage between two sharp hills or rocks, (see 1 Samuel 14:4, 5,) where a great army might have been opposed with advantage by a very inferior force. The enemies having passed the strait without opposition, shows that all thoughts of making a stand in the open country were given up, and that their only resource was in the strength of the city.” — Lowth. He describes how great will be the terror when they hear of the approach of the Assyrian, that the whole country will be struck with terror and alarm, so that the Assyrian will subdue it without any difficulty. When such dread has seized their hearts, they will freely surrender at the first attack of the enemy, so that the conquerors will be allowed to ravage at their pleasure. He passes from the singular to the plural number, because he speaks sometimes of the king and sometimes of the whole army.
Ramah is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled. He mentions Ramah in preference to the rest, because it was the nearest town; and he describes the flight of the inhabitants of some towns, as if the mere report had terrified them to such a degree that they gave up their country into the enemy’s hand. After having spoken of so great dismay, he adds. —
30. Neigh, 177177     Lift up thy voice. (Heb. Cry shrill with thy voice.) — Eng. Ver. O daughter of Gallim. By the word neigh he denotes the howling and cries which will be heard at a distance. It is very common, in the Hebrew language, to call cities daughters. He says that the howling will be so great that it will be heard even by the neighboring cities; for at Laish will be heard the groanings which will be uttered in Anathoth
31. Madmenah is removed. In exaggerated language he describes that city to have been shaken to such a degree, as if it had been removed to another place. This relates to the disorderly movements of a people in flight; as if he had said that the inhabitants of that city were thrown into as great a commotion as if the city had been razed to its foundations.
The inhabitants of Gebim have gathered themselves. This may be explained to mean that they are so terrified that they crowd together in a body. Others understand by it, that they rush out in a disorderly manner, as if there were not room for a free passage.
32. Yet a day. 178178     “Yet this day. One day longer shall the Assyrian be permitted to remain in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and to affright the daughter of Zion.” — Stock. Some interpret this, that the Assyrian will yet remain one day in Nob, which was a village contiguous to Jerusalem, as Jerome and others declare. But I rather agree with those who think that it means, that he will have a great part of the day before him when he halts there, in order to make preparations for besieging Jerusalem on the following day. He intends to describe the rapid march of the Assyrian, and how near Jerusalem was to utter destruction; as if he had said, that he had but a small part of the journey to perform, and that before the day was ended, he would arrive at that city.
He shall shake the hand. This contributes still more to show their terror; for Sennacherib, having conquered the whole country, will threaten Jerusalem, as if he could storm it by the slightest expression of his will.
Against the mountain of the daughter of Zion. By a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, (συνεκδοχικῶς,) he includes the whole city under the name of the mountain, because that part was higher, and commanded a view of the other quarters of the city. From this confidence of the tyrant, he shows that Jerusalem was not far from utter destruction; for the whole country, and even the city, was struck with such terror that none ventured to oppose him. By these details, therefore, the Prophet intended to give a more impressive view of the kindness of God, that it ought to be ascribed to the extraordinary favor and goodness of God, and not to human aid, of which there was none, that Jerusalem was preserved, as if a sheep had been rescued from the jaws of a lion.
Behold, the Lord Jehovah of hosts. Almost all explain this passage as referring to the Assyrians. (2 Kings 19:35.) They think that the Prophet threatens against them that slaughter with which the Lord destroyed them, after that they had besieged Jerusalem. As if he had spoken in this manner: The Assyrian will indeed be elated with such pride, that as soon as he has seen Jerusalem, he will think that it is in his power. All being struck with such dismay at his approach, that some shall flee and others shall freely surrender themselves, he will imagine that all are subdued under him; but the Lord will quickly reverse his condition, and lop off those lofty branches
But for my own part, when I examine closely the whole passage, and especially what he adds soon afterwards about Lebanon, and the consolation which immediately follows, I think that this passage ought to be referred to the Jews themselves. Isaiah therefore proceeds, in my opinion, to threaten the calamities which awaited the people. As if he had said, “Not only will he come to Nob, but he will spread devastation far and wide over the whole country. Everything in it that is excellent and lofty, he will completely waste and destroy, in the same manner as if one should cut off branches from a tree or cut down a tree from the root.”
This interpretation is confirmed by the following chapter, in which the Prophet offers consolation against that calamity; for the consolation agrees with this verse, and is added as an appropriate remedy for soothing grief. Nor do I attach any importance to the division of the chapter, which is often very absurd, and which perplexes the whole of the Prophet’s meaning. I think, therefore, that we ought to connect that consolation with these verses, as if there had been no such division.
34. And he will cut down the thick places of the forest with iron. There is no difficulty in explaining this metaphor, for it is plain enough that by tall and high trees is denoted all that is powerful, excellent, or lofty. Thus he foretells the destruction and ruin of Judea, which he compares to the cutting down of a forest; by which he means that there is nothing so valuable that the enemies will not destroy it, till they have stripped the whole land of its ornaments.
And Lebanon will fall violently. He mentions Lebanon, because that mountain, as we all know, was highly celebrated for fruitful and highly valuable trees. Now, if he had been speaking of the Assyrians, it would not have been appropriate to introduce the destruction of Lebanon. Hence we infer that the Prophet, in this passage, again threatens the Jews; and this agrees well with the introduction of the discourse, for it begins with a word which calls attention, Behold.

No comments:

Walrus Archive