Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This chapter Isa. 10 is composed of two parts: the first Isa 10:1-4 closes the prophecy commenced in Isa 9:8, and should have been connected with that in the division into chapters; and the second part commences an entirely new prophecy, respecting the destruction of the Assyrians; see the Analysis prefixed to Isa 10:5. The first four verses of this chapter constitute the fourth strophe, or part of the prophecy, commenced in Isa 9:8, and contains a specification of a crime, and its punishment: "the crime," prevalent injustice ann oppression Isa 9:1-2; "the punishment," foreign invasion, Isa 9:3-4; see the note at Isa 9:8.
At Isa 10:5, there is evidently the commencement of a new prophecy, or vision; and the division into chapters should have indicated such a commencement. The prophecy is continued to the close of Isa 12:1-6. Its general scope is a threatening against Assyria, and the prediction of ultimate safety, happiness, and triumph to the people of Judah. It has no immediate connection with the previous vision any further than the subjects are similar, and one seems to have suggested the other. In the previous vision, the prophet bad described the threatened invasion of Ephraim or Israel, by the Syrians; in this, he describes the threatened invasion of Judah by the Assyrians. The result of the invasion of Ephraim would be the desolation of Samaria, and the captivity of the people; but the result of the invasion of Judah would be that God would interpose and humble the Assyrian, and bring deliverance to his people. This chapter is occupied with an account of the threatened invasion of Judea by the Assyrian, Isa 10:5-7; with, a statement of his confident boasting, and defiance of God Isa 10:8-14; with encouraging the people to confide in God, and not to be afraid of him; and with the assurance that he would be discomfited and overthrown, Isa. 10:15-34. The mention of this deliverance gives occasion for the elevated and beautiful statement respecting the future deliverance of the nation by the Messiah, and the glorious triumph that would attend his reign, which occurs in Isa. 11; Isa 12:1-6.
When the prophecy was uttered, and in regard to whom, has been a question. Vitringa supposes that it was uttered in immediate connection with the foregoing, and that it is in fact a part of it. But from Isa 10:9, Isa 10:11, it is evident that at the time this prophecy was uttered, Samaria was destroyed; and from Isa 10:20, it is clear that it was after the ten tribes had been carried into captivity, and when the Assyrian supposed that he could accomplish the same destruction and captivity, in regard to Jerusalem and Judah, that had taken place in regard to Samaria and Ephraim. As to the remark of Vitringa, that the prophet anticipated these future events, and spoke of them as already passed, it may be observed, that the structure and form of the expressions suppose that they were in fact passed at the time he wrote; see the notes at Isa 10:9, Isa 10:11, Isa 10:20. Lightfoot (Chronica Temporum) supposes that the prophet here refers to the threatened invasion of the land by Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, after he had destroyed Damascus, and when, being about to advance upon Jerusalem, Ahaz stripped the temple of its valuable ornaments, and sent them to him; Kg2 16:17-18.
Lowth supposes that the threatened invasion here refers to that of Sennacherib. This is, probably, the correct reference. This took place in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, 725 years before the Christian era. Hezekiah, alarmed at the approach of Sennacherib, sent messengers to him to Lachish Kg2 18:14, to obtain a cessation of hostilities. Sennacherib agreed to such a peace, on condition that Hezekiaih should pay him three hundred talents of silver, and thirty of gold. In order to meet this demand, Hezekiah was obliged to advance all the silver and gold in the treasury, and even to strip the temple of its ornaments. Having done this, he hoped for safety; and on this occasion, probably, this prophecy was uttered. It was designed to show that the danger of invasion was not passed; to assure them the king of Assyria would still come against the nation (compare Kg2 8:17, ...); but that still God would interpose, and would deliver them. A further reference to this is made in Isa 20:1-6, and a full history given in Isa. 37; 38; see the notes at those chapters (37); (38).
Wo unto them that decree unrighteous decrees - To those who frame statutes that are oppressive and iniquitous. The prophet here refers, doubtless, to the rulers and judges of the land of Judea. A similar description he had before given; Isa 1:10, Isa 1:23, ...
And that write ... - Hebrew, 'And to the writers who write violence.' The word translated "grievousness," עמל ‛âmâl, denotes properly "wearisome labor, trouble, oppression, injustice." Here, it evidently refers to the judges who declared oppressive and unjust sentences, and caused them to be recorded. It does not refer to the mere scribes, or recorders of the judicial opinions, but to the judges themselves, who pronounced the sentence, and caused it to be recorded. The manner of making Eastern decrees differs from ours: they are first written, and then the magistrate authenticates them, or annuls them. This, I remember, is the Arab manner, according to D'Arvieux. When an Arab wanted a favor of the emir, the way was to apply to the secretary, who drew up a decree according to the request of the party; if the emir granted the favor, he printed his seal upon it; if not, he returned it torn to the petitioner. Sir John Chardin confirms this account, and applies it, with great propriety, to the illustration of a passage which I never thought of when I read over D'Arvieux. After citing Isa 10:1, 'Wo unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers that write grievousness,' for so our translators have rendered the latter part of the verse in the margin, much more agreeably than in the body of the version, Sir John goes on, 'The manner of making the royal acts and ordinances hath a relation to this; they are always drawn up according to the request; the first minister, or he whose office it is, writes on the side of it, "according to the king's will," and from thence it is sent to the secretary of state, who draws up the order in form.' - Harmer.
To turn aside - Their sentences have the effect, and are designed to have, to pervert justice, and to oppress the poor, or to deprive them of their rights and just claims; compare Isa 29:21; Pro 27:5.
The needy - daliym - דלים dalı̂ym. Those of humble rank and circumstances; who have no powerful friends and defenders. "From judgment." From obtaining justice.
And to take away - To take away by violence and oppression. The word גזל gāzal, is commonly applied to robbery, and to oppression; to the taking away of spoils in battle, etc.
That widows may be their prey - That they may rob widows, or obtain their property. This crime has always been one particularly offensive in the sight of God; see the note at Isa 1:23. The widow and the orphan are without protectors. Judges, by their office, are particularly bound to preserve their rights; and it, therefore, evinces special iniquity when they who should be their protectors become, in fact, their oppressors, and do injustice to them without the possibility of redress. Yet this was the character of the Jewish judges; and for this the vengeance of heaven was about to come upon the land.
And what will ye do - The prophet here proceeds to denounce the judgment, or punishment, that would follow the crimes specified in the previous verses. That punishment was the invasion of the land by a foreign force. 'What will ye do? To whom will you fly? What refuge will them be?' Implying that the calamity would be so great that there would be no refuge, or escape.
In the day of visitation - The word "visitation" (פקדה peqûddâh) is used here in the sense of God's coming to punish them for their sins; compare Job 31:14; Job 35:15; Isa 26:14; Eze 9:1. The idea is probably derived from that of a master of a family who comes to take account, or to investigate the conduct of his servants, and where the visitation, therefore, is one of reckoning and justice. So the idea is applied to God as designing to visit the wicked; that is, to punish them for their offences; compare Hos 9:7.
And in the desolation - The destruction, or overthrowing. The word used here - שׁואה shô'âh - usually denotes a storm, a tempest Pro 1:27; and then sudden destruction, or calamity, that sweeps along irresistibly like a tempest; Zep 1:15; Job 30:3, Job 30:14; Psa 35:8.
Which shall come from far - That is, from Assyria, Media, Babylonia. The sense is, 'a furious storm of war is about to rage. To what refuge can you then flee? or where can you then find safety?'
Where will ye leave your glory - By the word "glory" here, some have understood the prophet as referring to their aged men, their princes and nobles, and as asking where they would find a safe place for them. But he probably means their "riches, wealth, magnificence." Thus Psa 49:17 :
For when he dieth, he shall carry nothing away;
His glory shall not descebd after him.
See also Hos 9:2; Isa 66:12. The word "leave" here, is used in the sense "of deposit," or commit for safe keeping; compare Job 39:14. 'In the time of the invasion that shall come up like a tempest on the land, where will you deposit your property so that it shall be safe?'
Without me - בלתי biltı̂y. There has been a great variety of interpretation affixed to this expression. The sense in which our translators understood it was, evidently, that they should be forsaken of God; and that, as the effect of this, they should bow down under the condition of captives, or among the slain. The Vulgate and the Septuagint, however. and many interpreters understand the word bore as a simple negative. 'Where will you flee for refuge? Where will you deposit your wealth so as not to bow down under a chain?' Vulgate, Ne incurvemini sub vinculo. Septuagint, Τοῦ μὴ ἐμπεσεῖν εἰς ἀπαγωνήν tou mē empesein eis apagōnēn - 'Not to fall into captivity.' The Hebrew will bear either mode of construction. Vitringa and Lowth understand it as our translators have done, as meaning that God would forsake them, and that without him, that is, deprived of his aid, they would be destroyed.
They shall bow down - They shall be subdued, as armies are that are taken captive.
Under the prisoners - That is, under the "condition" of prisoners; or as prisoner. Some understand it to mean, that they should bear down "in the place of prisoners;" that is, in prison, But it evidently means, simply, that they should be captives.
They shall fall under the slain - They shall be slain. Gesenius renders it, "'Among the prisoners, and "among" the slain.'" The Chaldee reads it, 'You shall be east into chains out of your own land, and beyond your own cities you shall be cast out slain.' Vitringa supposes that the prophet, in this verse, refers to the custom, among the ancients, of placing prisoners in war under a yoke of wood to indicate their captivity. That such a custom obtained, there can be no doubt; but it is not probable that Isaiah refers to it here. The simple idea is, that many of them should be taken captive, and many of them slain. This prediction was fulfilled in the invasion of Tiglath-pileser; 2 Kings 15; 16.
For all this - Notwithstanding these calamities. The cup of punishment is not filled by these, but the divine judgment shall still be poured out further upon the nation. The anger of God shall not be fully expressed by these minor inflictions of his wrath, but his hand shall continue to be stretched out until the whole nation shall be overwhelmed and ruined; see the note at Isa 10:12.
O Assyrian - The word הוי hôy, is commonly used to denounce wrath, or to indicate approaching calamity; as an interjection of threatening; Isa 1:4. 'Wo sinful nation;' Isa 10:8, Isa 10:11, Isa 10:18, Isa 10:20-21; Jer 48:1; Eze 13:2. The Vulgate so understands it here: Vae Assur; and the Septuagint, Οὐαι Ἀσσυρίοις Ouai Assuriois - 'Woe to the Assyrians.' So the Chaldee and the Syriac. It is not then a simple address to the Assyrian; but a form denouncing wrath on the invader. Yet it was not so much designed to intimidate and appal the Assyrian himself as to comfort the Jews with the assurance that calamity should overtake him. The 'Assyrian' referred to here was the king of Assyria - Sennacherib, who was leading an army to invade the land of Judea.
The rod of mine anger - That is, the rod, or instrument, by which I will inflict punishment on a guilty nation. The Hebrew would bear the interpretation that the Assyrian was, an object against which God was angry; but the former is evidently the sense of the passage, as denoting that the Assyrian was the agent by which he would express his anger against a guilty people. Woe might be denounced against him for his wicked intention, at the same time that God might design to make use of his plans to punish the sins of his own people. The word "anger" here, refers to the indignation of God against the sins of the Jewish people.
And the staff - The word "staff" here, is synonymous with rod, as an instrument of chastisement or punishment; Isa 9:4; compare Isa 10:24; Nah 1:13; Eze 7:10.
In their hand - There has been considerable variety in the interpretation of this passage. Lowth and Noyes read it, 'The staff in whose hand is the instrument of my indignation.' This interpretation Lowth adopts, by omitting the word הוא hû' on the authority of the Alexandrine copy of the Septuagint, and five manuscripts, two of them ancient. Jerome reads it, 'Wo to the Assyrian! He is the staff and the rod of my fury; in their hand is my indignation.' So Forerius, Ludovicus, de Dieu, Cocceius, and others. Vitringa reads it, 'And in the hands of those who are my rod is my indignation.' Schmidius and Rosenmuller, 'And the rod which is in their hands, is the rod of mine indignation.' There is no necessity for any change in the text. The Hebrew, literally, is, 'Wo to the Assyrian! Rod of my anger! And he is the staff. In their hands is my indignation.' The sense is sufficiently clear, that the Assyrian was appointed to inflict punishmerit on a rebellious people, as the instrument of God. The Chaldee renders it, 'Wo to the Assyrian! The dominion (power, ruler) of my fury, and the angel sent from my face, against them, for a malediction. Septuagint, 'And wrath in their hands.'
In their hand - In the hand of the Assyrians, where the word 'Assyrian' is taken as referring to the king of Assyria, as the representative of the nation.
I will send him - Implying that he was entirely in the hand of God, and subject to his direction; and showing that God has control over kings and conqueror's; Pro 21:1.
Against an hypocritical nation - Whether the prophet here refers to Ephraim, or to Judah, or to the Jewish people in general, has been an object of inquiry among interpreters. As the designs of Sennacherib were mainly against Judah. it is probable that that part of the nation was intended. This is evidently the case, if, as has been supposed, the prophecy was uttered after the captivity of the ten tribes; see Isa 10:20. It need scarcely be remarked, that it was eminently the characteristic of the nation that they were hypocritical; compare Isa 9:17; Mat 15:17; Mar 7:6.
And against the people of my wrath - That is, those who were the objects of my wrath; or the people on whom I am about to pour out my indignation.
To take the spoil - To plunder them.
And to tread them down - Hebrew, 'And to make them a treading down.' The expression is drawn from war, where the vanquished and the slain are trodden down by the horses of the conquering army. It means here, that the Assyrian would humble and subdue the people; that he would trample indignantly on the nation, regarding them with contempt, and no more to be esteemed than the mire of the streets. A similar figure occurs in Zac 10:5 : 'And they shall be as mighty men which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in battle.'
Howbeit he meaneth not so - It is not his purpose to be the instrument, in the hand of God, of executing his designs. He has a different plan; a plan of his own which he intends to accomplish.
Neither doth his heart think so - He does not intend or design it. The "heart" here, is put to express "purpose, or will."
It is "in his heart to cut off nations - Utterly to destroy or to annihilate their political existence.
Not a few - The ambitious purpose of Sennacherib was not confined to Judea. His plan was also to invade and to conquer Egypt; and the destruction of Judea, was only a part of his scheme; Isa 20:1-6. This is a most remarkable instance of the supremacy which God asserts over the purposes of wicked people. Sennacherib formed his own plan without compulsion. He devised large purposes of ambition, and intended to devastate kingdoms. And yet God says that he was under his direction, and that his plans would be overruled to further his own purposes. Thus 'the wrath of man would be made to praise him;' Psa 76:10. And from this we may learn
(1) That wicked people form their plans and devices with perfect freedom. They lay their schemes as if there were no superintending providence; and feel, correctly, that they are not under the laws of compulsion, or of fate.
(2) That God presides over their schemes. and suffers them to be formed and executed with reference to his own purposes.
(3) That the plans of wicked people often, though they do not intend it, go to execute the purposes of God. Their schemes result in just what they did not intend - the furtherance of his plans, and the promotion of his glory
(4) That their plans are, nevertheless, wicked and abominable. They are to be judged according to what they are in themselves, and not according to the use which God may make of them by counteracting or overruling them. "Their" intention is evil; and by that they must be judged. That God brings good out of them, is contrary to their design, and a thing for which "they" deserve no credit, and should receive no reward.
(5) The wicked are in the hands of God.
(6) There is a superintending providence; and people cannot defeat the purposes of the Almighty. This extends to princes on their thrones; to the rich, the great, and the mighty, as well as to the poor and the humble - and to the humble as well as to the rich and the great. Over all people is this superintending and controlling providence; and all are subject to the direction of God.
(7) It has often happened, "in fact," that the plans of wicked people have been made to contribute to the purposes of God. Instances like those of Pharaoh, of Cyrus, and of Sennacherib; of Pontius Pilate, and of the kings and emperors who persecuted the early Christian church, show that they are in the hand of God, and that he can overrule their wrath and wickedness to his glory. The madness of Pharaoh was the occasion of the signal displays of the power of God in Egypt. The wickedness, and weakness, and flexibility of Pilate, was the occasion of the atonement made for the sins of the world. And the church rose, in its primitive brightness and splendor, amid the flames which persecution kindled, and was augmented in numbers, and in moral loveliness and power, just in proportion as the wrath of monarchs raged to destroy it.
For he saith - This verse, and the subsequent verses to Isa 10:11, contain the vaunting of the king of Assyria, and the descriptions of his own confidence of success.
Are not my princes altogether kings? - This is a confident boast of his "own" might and power. His own dominion was so great that even his princes were endowed with the ordinary power and "regalia" of kings. The word "princes," may here refer either to those of his own family and court - to the satraps and officers of power in his army, or around his throne: or more probably, it may refer to the subordinate governors whom he had set over the provinces which he had conquered. 'Are they not clothed with royal power and majesty? Are they not of equal splendor with the other monarchs at the earth?' How great, then, must have been his "own" rank and glory to be placed "over" such illustrious sovereigns! It will be recollected, that a common title which oriental monarchs give themselves, is that of King of kings; see Eze 26:7; Dan 2:37; Ezr 7:12. The oriental princes are still distinguished for their sounding titles, and particularly for their claiming dominion over all other princes, and the supremacy over all other earthly powers.
Is not Calno as Carchemish? - The meaning of this confident boasting is, that none of the cities and nations against which be had directed his arms, had been able to resist him. All had fallen before him; and all were alike prostrate at his feet. Carchemish had been unable to resist him, and Calno had shared the same fate. Arpad had fallen before him, and Hamath in like manner had been subdued. The words which are used here are the same nearly that Rabshakeh used when he was sent by Sennacherib to insult Hezekiah and the Jews; Isa 36:19; Kg2 18:34. "Calno" was a city in the land of Shinar, and was probably the city built by Nimrod, called in Gen 10:10, "Calneh," and at one time the capital of his empire. It is mentioned by Ezekiel, Eze 27:23. According to the Targums, Jerome, Eusebius, and others, Calno or Calneh, was the same city as "Ctesiphon," a large city on the bank of the Tigris, and opposite to Selcucia. - "Gesenius" and "Calmet."
Carchemish - This was a city on the Euphrates, belonging to Assyria. It was taken by Necho, king of Egypt, and re-taken by Nebuchadnezzar in the fourth year of Jehoiachin, king of Judah; Kg2 23:29. Probably it is the same city as Cercusium, or Kirkisia, which is situated in the angle formed by the junction of the Chebar and the Euphrates; compare Jer 46:2; Ch2 25:20.
Hamath - This was a celebrated city of Syria. It is referred to in Gen 10:18, as the seat of one of the tribes of Canaan. It is often mentioned as the northern limit of Canaan. in its widest extent; Num 13:21; Jos 13:5; Jdg 3:3. The Assyrians became masters of this city about 753 years before Christ; Kg2 17:24. Burckhardt mentions this city as situated on both sides of the river Orontes. The town is at present of considerable extent, and contains about 30,000 inhabitants. There are four bridges over the Orontes, in the town. The trade of the town now is with the Arabs, who buy here their tent-furniture, and their clothes. This city was visited by Eli Smith, in 1834. It lies, says he, on the narrow valley of the 'Asy; and is so nearly concealed by the high banks, that one sees little of it until he actually comes up to the gates: "see" Robinson's "Bib. Researches," vol. iii. App. pp. 176, 177.
Arpad - This city was not far from Hamath, and is called by the Greeks Epiphania; Kg2 18:34.
Samaria - The capital of Israel, or Ephraim. From the mention of this place, it is evident that this prophecy was written after Samaria had been destroyed; see the notes at Isa 7:9; Isa 28:1.
As Damascus - The capital of Syria; see the note at Isa 7:9, and the Analysis of Isa 17:1-14. The Septuagint has varied in their translation here considerably from the Hebrew. They render these verses, 'And he saith, Have I not taken the region beyond Babylon, and Chalane, where the tower was built? and I have taken Arabia, and Damascus, and Samaria.' The main idea, however - the boast of the king of Assyria, is retained.
The argument in these two verses is this: 'The nations which I have subdued were professedly under the protection of idol gods. Yet those idols were not able to defend them - though stronger than the gods worshipped by Jerusalem and Samaria. And is there any probability, therefore, that the protection on which you who are Jews are leaning, will be able to deliver you?' Jerusalem he regarded as an idolatrous city, like others; and as all others had hitherto been unable to retard his movements, he inferred that it would be so with Jerusalem. This is, therefore, the confident boasting of "a man" who regarded himself as able to vanquish all "the gods" that the nations worshipped. The same confident boasting he uttered when he sent messengers to Hezekiah; Kg2 19:12 : 'Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my father destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden, which were in Thelasar?' Isa 36:18-20 : 'Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and of Arphad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? And have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?'
Hath found - That is, 'I have found them unable to defend themselves by their trust in their idols, and have subdued them.'
The kingdoms of the idols - The kingdoms that worship idols.
And whose graven images - That is, whose idols; or whose representations of the gods. The word properly signifies that which is hewn or cut out; and then the block of wood, or stone, that is carved into an image of the god. Here it, refers to the gods themselves, probably, as having been found to be impotent, though he supposed them to be more powerful that those of Jerusalem and Samaria.
Did excel - Hebrew, 'More than Jerusalem,' where the inseperable preposition מ m, is used to denote comparison. They were "more" to be dreaded; or more mighty than those of Jerusalem.
Of Jerusalem - Jerusalem and Samaria had often been guilty of the worship of idols; and it is probable that Sennacherib regarded them as idolaters in the same sense as other nations. They had given occasion for this suspicion by their having often fallen into idolatrous habits; and the Assyrian monarch did not regard them as in any manner distinguished from surrounding nations. It is not improbable that he was aware that Jerusalem worshipped Yahweh (compare Isa 36:20); but he doubtless regarded Yahweh as a mere tutelary divinity - the special god of that land, as Baal, Ashtaroth, etc., were of the countries in which they were adored. For it was a common doctrine among ancient idolaters, that each nation had its special god; that the claims of that god were to be respected and regarded in that nation; and that thus all nations should worship their own gods undisturbed. Yahweh was thus regarded as the tutelary god of the Jewish nation. The sin of Sennacherib consisted in confounding Yahweh with false gods, and in then setting him at defiance.
Shall I not ... - 'Shall I not meet with the same success at Jerusalem that I have elsewhere? As I have overcome all others and as Jerusalem has no particular advantages; as the gods of other nations were more in number, and mightier than those of Jerusalem, and yet were unable to resist me; what is there in Jerusalem that can stay my progress?'
Wherefore ... - In this verse God, by the prophet, threatens punishment to the king of Assyria for his pride, and wicked designs.
His whole work - His entire plan in regard to the punishment of the Jews. He sent the king of Assyria for a specific purpose to execute his justice on the people of Jerusalem. That plan he would execute entirely by the hand of Sennacherib, and would "then" inflict deserved, punishment on Sennacherib himself, for his wicked purposes.
Upon mount Zion - Mount Zion was a part of Jerusalem (see the note at Isa 1:8), but it was the residence of the court, the dwelling-place of David and his successors; and perhaps here, where it is mentioned as distinct from Jerusalem, it refers to the court, the princes, nobles, or the government. 'I will execute my purposes against the government, and the people of the city.'
I will punish - Hebrew, 'I will visit;' but here, evidently used to denote punishment; see the note at Isa 10:3.
The fruit of the stout heart - Hebrew, 'The fruit of the greatness of the heart.' The 'greatness of the heart,' is a Hebraism for pride of heart, or great swelling designs and plans formed in the heart. "Fruit" is that which a tree or the earth produces; and then anything which is produced or brought forth in any way. Here it means that which a proud heart had produced or designed, that is, plans of pride and ambition; schemes of conquest and of blood.
The glory of his high looks - Hebrew, 'The glory of the lifting up of his eyes' - an expression indicative of pride and haughtiness. The word "glory," here, evidently refers to the self-complacency, and the air of majesty and haughtiness, which a proud man assumes. In this verse we see -
(1) That God will accomplish all the purposes of which he designs to make wicked people the instruments. "Their" schemes shall be successful just so far as they may contribute to "his" plans, and no further.
(2) When that is done, they are completely in "his" power, and under his control. He can stay their goings when he pleases, and subdue them to his will.
(3) The fact that they have been made to further the plans of God, and to execute his designs, will not free them from deserved punishment. They meant not so; and they will be dealt with according to "their" intentions, and not according to God's design to overrule them. "Their" plans were wicked; and if God brings good out of them, it is contrary to "their" intention; and hence, they are not to be screened from punishment because he brings good out of their plans, contrary to their designs.
(4) Wicked people "are in fact" often thus punished. Nothing is more common on earth; and all the woes of hell will be an illustration of the principle. Out of all evil God shall educe good; and even from the punishment of the damned themselves, he will take occasion to illustrate his own perfections, and, in that display of his just character, promote the happiness of holy beings.
For he saith - The king of Assyria saith. This verse and the following are designed to show the reason why the king of Assyria should be thus punished. It was on account of his pride, and wicked plans. He sought not the glory of God, but purposed to do evil.
For I am prudent - I am wise; attributing his success to his own understanding, rather than to God.
I have removed the bounds of the people - That is, 'I have changed the limits of kingdoms; I have taken away the old boundaries, and made new ones at my pleasure. I have divided them into kingdoms and provinces as I pleased.' No higher assumption of power could have been made than thus to have changed the ancient limits of empires, and remodelled them at his will. It was claiming that he had so extended his own empire, as to have effectually blotted out the ancient lines which had existed, so that they were now all one, and under his control. So a man who buys farms, and annexes them to his own, takes away the ancient limits; he runs new lines as he pleases, and unites them all into one. This was the claim which Sennacherib set up over the nations.
Have robbed their treasures - Their hoarded wealth. This was another instance of the claim which he set up, of power and dominion. The treasures of kingdoms which had been hoarded for purposes of peace or war, he had plundered, and appropriated to his own use; compare the note at Isa 46:3.
I have put down the inhabitants - I have subdued them; have vanquished them.
As a valiant man - כאביר ka'bbı̂yr. Margin, 'Many people.' The Keri, or Hebrew marginal reading, is כביר kabbı̂yr without the Hebrew letter א, 'a mighty or, strong man.' The sense is not materially different. It is a claim that he had evinced might and valor in bringing down nations. Lowth renders it, 'Them that were strongly seated.' Noyes, 'Them that sat upon thrones.' The Chaldee renders the verse, not literally, but according to the sense, 'I have made people to migrate from province to province, and have plundered the cities that were the subjects of praise, and have brought down by strength those who dwelt in fortified places. Our translation has given the sense correctly.
And my hand hath found, as a nest - By a beautiful and striking figure here, the Assyrian monarch is represented as describing the ease with which he had subdued kingdoms, and rifled them of their treasures. No resistance had been offered. He had taken them with as little opposition as a rustic takes possession of a nest, with its eggs or young, when the parent bird is away.
Eggs that are left - That is, eggs that are left of the parent bird; when the bird from fright, or any other cause, has gone, and when no resistance is offered.
Have I gathered all the earth - That is, I have subdued and plundered it. This shows the height of his self-confidence and his arrogant assumptions.
That moved the wing - Keeping up the figure of the nest. There was none that offered resistance; as an angry bird does when her nest is about to be robbed.
Or opened the mouth - To make a noise in alarm. The dread of him produced perfect silence and submission.
Or peeped - Or that chirped - the noise made by young birds; the note at Isa 8:19. The idea is, that such was the dread of his name and power that there was universal silence. None dared to resist the terror of his arms.
Shall the axe ... - In this verse God reproves the pride and arrogance of the Assyrian monarch. He does it by reminding him that he was the mere instrument in his hand, to accomplish his purposes; and that it was just as absurd for him to boast of what he had done, as it would be for the axe to boast when it had been welded with effect. In the axe there is no wisdom, no skill, no power; and though it may lay the forest low, yet it is not by any skill or power which it possesses. So with the Assyrian monarch. Though nations had trembled at his power, yet be was in the hand of God, and had been directed by an unseen arm in accomplishing the designs of the Ruler of the universe. Though himself free, yet he was under the direction of God, and had been so directed as to accomplish his designs.
The saw magnify itself - That is boast or exalt itself against or over him that uses it.
That shaketh it - Or moves it backward and forward, for the purpose of sawing.
As if the rod - A rod is an instrument of chastisement or punishment; and such God regarded the king of Assyria.
Should shake" itself ... - The Hebrew, in this place, is as in the margin: 'A rod should shake them that lift it up.' But the sense is evidently retained in our translation, as this accords with all the other members of the verse, where the leading idea is, the absurdity that a mere instrument should exalt itself against him who makes use of it. In this manner the preposition על ‛al "over," or "against," is evidently understood. So the Vulgate and the Syriac.
The staff - This word here is synonymous with rod, and denotes an instrument of chastisement.
As if it were no wood - That is, as if it were a moral agent, itself the actor or deviser of what it is made to do. It would be impossible to express more strongly the idea intended here, that the Assyrian was a mere instrument in the hand of God to accomplish "his" purposes, and to be employed at his will. The statement of this truth is designed to humble him: and if there be "any" truth that will humble sinners, it is, that they are in the hands of God; that he will accomplish his purposes by them; that when they are laying plans against him, he will overrule them for his own glory; and that they will be arrested, restrained, or directed, just as he pleases. Man, in his schemes of pride and vanity, therefore, should not boast. He is under the God of nations; and it is one part of his administration, to control and govern all the intellect in the universe. In all these passages, however, there is not the slightest intimation that the Assyrian was not "free." There is no fate; no compulsion. He regarded himself as a free moral agent; he did what he pleased; he never supposed that he was urged on by any power that violated his own liberty. If he did what he pleased, he was free. And so it is with all sinners. They do as they please. They form and execute such plans as they choose; and God overrules their designs to accomplish his own purposes. The Targum of Jonathan has given the sense of this passage; 'Shall the axe boast against him who uses it, saying, I have cut (wood); or the saw boast against him who moves it, saying, I have sawed? When the rod is raised to smite, it is not the rod that smites, but he who smites with it.'
Therefore shall the Lord - Hebrew, אדון 'ādôn.
The Lord of hosts - In the present Hebrew text, the original word is also אדני 'ădonāy, but fifty-two manuscripts and six editions read Jehovah. On the meaning of the phrase, "the Lord of hosts," see the note at Isa 1:9. This verse contains a threatening of the punishment that would come upon the Assyrian for his insolence and pride, and the remainder of the chapter is mainly occupied with the details of that punishment. The punishment here threatened is, that while he appeared to be a victor, and was boasting of success and of his plunder, God would send leanness - as a body becomes wasted with disease.
His fat ones - That is, those who had fattened on the spoils of victory; his vigorous, prosperous, and flourishing army. The prophet here evidently intends to describe his numerous army glutted with the trophies of victor, and revelling on the spoils.
Leanness - They shall be emaciated and reduced; their vigor and strength shall be diminished. In Psa 106:15, the word "leanness," רזון râzôn, is used to denote destruction, disease. In Mic 6:10, it denotes diminution, scantiness - 'the scant ephah.' Here it denotes, evidently, that the army which was so large and vigorous, should waste away as with a pestilential disease; compare Isa 10:19. The "fact" was, that of that vast host few escaped. The angel of the Lord killed 185,000 men in a single night; Kg2 18:35; see the notes at Isa. 38:36.
And under his glory - That is, beneath the boasted honor, might, and magnificence of the proud monarch.
He shall kindle - That is, God shall suddenly and entirely destroy his magnificence and pride, as when a fire is kindled beneath a magnificent temple. A similar passage occurs in Zac 12:6 :
In that day I shall make the governors of Judah
Like a hearth of fire among the wood,
And like a torch of fire in a sheaf;
And they shall devour all the people round about.
And the light of Israel - That is, Yahweh. The word "light" here, אור 'ôr, is used also to denote a "fire," or that which causes light and heat; see Eze 5:2; Isa 44:16; Isa 47:14. Here it is used in the same sense, denoting that Yahweh would be "the fire" אור 'ôr that would cause the "flame" (אשׁ 'êsh) which would consume the Assyrian. Jehovah is often compared to a burning flame, or fire; Deu 4:24; Deu 9:3; Heb 12:29.
Shall be for a fire - By his power and his judgment he shall destroy them.
His Holy One - Israel's Holy One; that is, Yahweh - often called in the Scriptures the Holy One of Israel.
And it shall burn - That is, the flame that Yahweh shall kindle, or his judgments that he shall send forth.
And devour his thorns and his briers - An expression denoting the utter impotency of all the mighty armies of the Assyrian to resist Yahweh. As dry thorns and briers cannot resist the action of heat, so certainly and speedily would the armies of Sennacherib be destroyed before Yahweh; compare the note at Isa 9:18. Lowth supposes, that by 'briers and thorns' here, the common soldiers of the army are intended, and by 'the glory of his forest' Isa 10:18, the princes, officers, and nobles. This is, doubtless, the correct interpretation; and the idea is, that all would be completely consumed and destroyed.
In one day - The army of Sennacherib was suddenly destroyed by the angel; see the notes at Isa 37:36.
The glory of his forest - In these expressions, the army of Sennacherib is compared with a beautiful grove thick set with trees; and as all the beauty of a grove which the fire overruns is destroyed, so, says the prophet, it will be with the army of the Assyrian under the judgments of God. If the 'briers and thorns' Isa 10:17 refer to the common soldiers of his army, then the glory of the forest - the tall, majestic trees - refer to the princes and nobles. But this mode of interpretation should not be pressed too far.
And of his fruitful field - וכרמלו vekaremilô. The word used here - "carmel" - is applied commonly to a rich mountain or promontory on the Mediterranean, on the southern boundary of the tribe of Asher. The word, however, properly means a fruitful field, a finely cultivated country, and Was given to Mount Carmel on this account, In this place it has no reference to that mountain, but is given to the army of Sennacherib to "keep up the figure" which the prophet commenced in Isa 10:17. That army, numerous, mighty, and well disciplined, was compared to an extensive region of hill and vale; of forests and fruitful fields; but it should all be destroyed as when the fire runs over fields and forests, and consumes all their beauty. Perhaps in all this, there may be allusion to the proud boast of Sennacherib Kg2 19:23, that he would 'go up the sides of Lebanon, and cut down the cedars thereof, and the choice fir-trees thereof', and enter into the forest of Carmel.' In allusion, possibly, to this, the prophet says that God would cut down the tall trees and desolate the fruitful field - the 'carmel' of his army, and would lay all waste.
Both soul and body - Hebrew, 'From the soul to the flesh;' that is, entirely. As the soul and the flesh, or body, compose the entire man, so the phrase denotes the entireness or totality of anything. The army would be totally ruined.
And they shall be as when a standard-bearer fainteth - There is here a great variety of interpretation. The Septuagint reads it: 'And he shall flee as one that flees from a burning flame.' This reading Lowth has followed; but for this there is not the slightest authority in the Hebrew. The Vulgate reads it, 'And he shall fly for terror, "et crit terrore profugus." The Chaldee, 'And he shall be broken, and shall fly.' The Syriac, 'And he shall be as if he had never been.' Probably the correct idea is, "and they shall be as when a sick man wastes away." The words which are used (נסס כמסס kı̂mesos nosēs) are brought together for the sake of a paranomasia - a figure of speech common in the Hebrew. The word rendered in our version "fainteth" (מסס mesos) is probably the infinitive construct of the verb מסס mâsas, "to melt, dissolve, faint." It is applied to the manna that was dissolved by the heat of the sun, Exo 16:21; to wax melted by the fire, Psa 68:2; to a snail that consumes away, Psa 58:8; or to water that evaporates, Psa 58:7.
Hence, it is applied to the heart, exhausted of its vigor and spirit, Job 7:5; to things decayed that have lost their strength, Sa1 15:9; to a loan or tax laid upon a people that wastes and exhausts their wealth. It has the general notion, therefore, of melting, fainting, sinking away with the loss of strength; Psa 22:14; Psa 112:10; Psa 97:5; Isa 19:1; Isa 13:7; Jos 2:11; Jos 5:1; Jos 7:5. The word rendered "standard-bearer" (נסס nosēs) is from the verb נסס nāsas. This word signifies sometimes "to lift up," to elevate, or to erect a flag or standard to public view, to call men to arms; Isa 5:26; Isa 11:10, Isa 11:12; Isa 13:2; Isa 18:3; Isa 49:22; and also to lift up, or to exhibit anything as a judgment or public warning, and may thus be applied to divine judgments. Gesenius renders the verb, "to waste away, to be sick." In Syriac it has this signification. Taylor ("Heb. Con.") says, that it does not appear that this word ever has the signification of a military standard under which armies fight, but refers to a standard or ensign to "call" men together, or to indicate alarm and danger. The probable signification here, is that which refers it to a man wasting away with sickness, whose strength and vigor are gone, and who becomes weak and helpless. Thus applied to the Assyrian army, it is very striking. Though mighty, confident, and vigorous-like a man in full health - yet it would be like a vigorous man when disease comes upon him, and he pines away and sinks to the grave.
And the rest of the trees ... - Keeping up still the image of a large and once dense forest, to which he had likened the Assyrian army. 'The rest' here means that which shall be left after the threatened judgment shall come upon them.
That a child may write them - That a child shall be able to number them, or write their names; that is, they shall be very few. A child can number or count but few; yet the number of those who would be left, would be so very small that even a child could count them with ease. It is probable that a few of the army of Sennacherib escaped (see the note at Isa 37:37); and compared with the whole army, the remnant might bear a striking resemblance to the few decaying trees of a once magnificent forest of cedars.
And it shall come to pass - The prophet proceeds to state the effect on the Jews, of the judgment that would overtake the army of the Assyrian. One of those effects, as stated in this verse, would be, that they would be led to see that it was in vain to look to the Assyrians any more for aid, or to form any further alliance with them, but that they should trust in the Lord alone.
The remnant of Israel - Those that would be left after the Assyrian had invaded and desolated the land.
Shall no more again stay - Shall no more depend on them. Alliances had been formed with the Assyrians for aid, and they had resulted as all alliances formed between the friends and the enemies of God do. They are observed as long as it is for the interest or the convenience of God's enemies to observe them; and then his professed friends are made the victims of persecution, invasion, and ruin.
Upon him that smote them - Upon the Assyrian, who was about to desolate the land. The calamities which he would bring upon them would be the main thing which would open their eyes, and lead them to forsake the alliance. One design of God's permitting the Assyrians to invade the land, was, to punish them for this alliance, and to induce them to trust in God.
But shall stay ... - They shall depend upon Yahweh, or shall trust in him for protection and defense.
The Holy One of Israel - see Isa 10:17.
In truth - They shall serve him sincerely and heartily, not with feigned or divided service. They shall be so fully satisfied that the Assyrian cannot aid them, and be so severely punished forever, having formed an alliance with him, that they shall now return to Yahweh, and become his sincere worshippers. In this verse, the prophet refers, doubtless, to the times of Hezekiah, and to the extensive reformation, and general prevalence of piety, which would take place under his reign; Ch2 32:22-33. Vitringa, Cocceius, Schmidius, etc., however, refer this to the time of the Messiah; Vitringa supposing that the prophet refers "immediately" to the times of Hezekiah, but in a secondary sense, for the complete fulfillment of the prophecy, to the times of the Messiah. But it is not clear that he had reference to any other period than that which would immediately follow the invasion of Sennacherib.
The remnant ... - That is, those who shall be left after the invasion of Sennacherib.
Shall return - Shall abandon their idolatrous rites and places of worship, and shall worship the true God.
The mighty God - The God that had evinced his power in overcoming and destroying the armies of Sennacherib.
For though ... - In this verse, and in Isa 10:23. the prophet expresses positively the idea that "but" a remnant of the people should be preserved amidst the calamities. He had said Isa 10:20-21, that a remnant should return to God. He now carries forward the idea, and states that only a remnant should be preserved out of the multitude, however great it was. Admitting that the number was then very great, yet the great mass of the nation would be cut off, and only a small portion would remain.
Thy people Israel - Or rather, 'thy people, O Israel,' making it a direct address to the Jews, rather than to God.
Be as the sand of the sea - The sands of the sea cannot be numbered, and hence, the expression is used in the Bible to denote a number indefinitely great: Psa 119:18; Gen 22:17; Gen 41:49; Jos 11:4; Jdg 7:12; Sa1 13:5, ...
Yet a remnant - The word "yet" has been supplied by the translators, and evidently obscures the sense. The idea is, that a remnant only - a very small portion of the whole, should be preserved. Though they were exceedingly numerous as a nation, yet the mass of the nation would be cut off, or carried into captivity, and only a few would be left.
Shall return - That is, shall be saved from destruction, and return by repentance unto God, Isa 10:21. Or, if it has reference to the approaching captivity of the nation, it means that but a few of them would return from captivity to the land of their fathers.
The consumption - The general sense of this is plain. The prophet is giving a reason why only a few of them would return, and he says, that the judgment which God had determined on was inevitable, and would overflow the land in justice. As God had determined this, their numbers availed nothing, but the consumption would be certainly accomplished. The word "consumption" כליון kilāyôn from כלה kâlâh to complete, to finish, to waste away, vanish, disappear) denotes a languishing, or wasting away, as in disease; and then "destruction," or that which "completes" life and prosperity. It denotes such a series of judgments as would be a "completion" of the national prosperity, or as should terminate it entirely.
Decreed - צריץ chârı̂yts. The word used here is derived from חרץ chârats, to sharpen, or bring to a point; to rend, tear, lacerate; to be quick, active, diligent; and then to decide, determine, decree; because that which is decreed is brought to a point, or issue. - "Taylor." It evidently means here, that it was fixed upon or decreed in the mind of God, and that being thus decreed, it must certainly take place.
Shall overflow - שׁטף shoṭēph. This word is usually applied to an inundation, when a stream rises above its banks and overflows the adjacent land; Isa 30:28; Isa 66:12; Psa 78:20. Here it means evidently, that the threatened judgment would spread like an overflowing river through the land, and would accomplish the devastation which God had determined.
With righteousness - With justice, or in the infliction of justice. justice would abound or overflow, and the consequence would be, that the nation would be desolated.
For the Lord God of hosts - Note, Isa 1:9.
Shall make a consumption - The Hebrew of this verse might be rendered, 'for its destruction is completed, and is determined on; the Lord Yahweh of hosts will execute it in the midst of the land.' Our translation, however, expresses the force of the original. It means that the destruction was fixed in the mind or purpose of God, and would be certainly executed. The translation by the Septuagint, which is followed in the main by the apostle Paul in quoting this passage, is somewhat different. 'For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness, for a short work will the Lord make in the whole habitable world' - ἐν τῇ οἰκουμένῃ ὅλῃ en tē oikoumenē holē; as quoted by Paul, 'upon the earth' - ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς epi tēs gēs. For the manner in which this passage is quoted by Paul, see the notes at Rom 9:27-28.
In the midst of all the land - That is, the land of Israel for the threatened judgment extended no further.
Therefore ... - In this verse the prophet returns to the main subject of this prophecy, which is to comfort the people of Jerusalem with the assurance that the army of the Assyrian would be destroyed.
O my people - An expression of tenderness, showing that God regarded them as his children, and notwithstanding the judgments that he would bring upon them for their sins In the midst of severe judgments, God speaks the language of tenderness; and, even when he punishes, has toward his people the feelings of a father; Heb 12:5-11.
That dwelleth in Zion - literally, in mount Zion; but here taken for the whole city of Jerusalem; see the note at Isa 1:8.
Be not afraid ... - For his course shall be arrested, and he shall be repelled and punished; Isa 10:25-27.
He shall smite thee - He shall, indeed, smite thee, but shall not utterly destroy thee.
And shall lift up his staff - Note, Isa 10:5. The "staff" here is regarded as an instrument of punishment; compare the note at Isa 9:4; and the sense is, that by his invasion, and by his exactions, he would oppress and punish the nation.
After the manner of Egypt - Hebrew, 'In the way of Egypt.' Some interpreters have supposed that this means that Sennacherib would oppress and afflict the Jews in his going down to Egypt, or on his way there to attack the Egyptians. But the more correct interpretation is that which is expressed in our translation - "after the manner of Egypt." That is, the nature of his oppressions shall be like those which the Egyptians under Pharaoh inflicted on the Jews. There are "two" ideas evidently implied here.
(1) That the oppression would be heavy and severe. Those which their fathers experienced in Egypt were exceedingly burdensome and cruel. So it would be in the calamities that the Assyrian would bring upon them. But,
(2) Their fathers had been delivered from the oppressions of the Egyptians. And so it would be now. The Assyrian would oppress them; but God would deliver and save them. The phrase, 'in the way of,' is used to denote "after the manner of," or, as an example, in Amo 4:10, 'I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt;' Hebrew, 'In the way of Egypt;' compare Eze 20:30.
For yet a very little while - This is designed to console them with the hope of deliverance. The threatened invasion was brief and was soon ended by the pestilence that swept off the greater part of the army of the Assyrian.
The indignation shall cease - The anger of God against his offending people shall come to an end; his purposes of chastisement shall be completed; and the land shall be delivered.
In their destruction - על־תבליתם ‛al-tabelı̂ytām from בלה bâlâh, to wear out; to consume; to be annihilated. It means here, that his anger would terminate in the entire annihilation of their power to injure them. Such was the complete overthrow of Sennacherib by the pestilence; Kg2 19:35. The word used here, occurs in this form in no other place in the Hebrew Bible, though the verb is used, and other forms of the noun. "The verb," Deu 7:4; Deu 29:5; Jos 9:13; Neh 9:21, ..."Nouns," Eze 23:43; Isa 38:17; Jer 38:11-12; Isa 17:14, et al.
And the Lord of hosts shall stir up - Or shall raise up that which shall rove as a scourge to him.
A scourge for him - That is, that which shall punish him. The scourge, or rod, is used to denote severe punishment of any kind. The nature of this punishment is immediately specified.
According to the slaughter of Midian - That is, as the Midianites were discomfitcd and punished. There is reference here, doubtless, to the discomfiture and slaughter of the Midianites by Gideon, as recorded in Jdg 7:24-25. That was signal and entire; and the prophet means to say, that the destruction of the Assyrian would be also signal and total. The country of Midian, or Madian, was on the east side of the Elanitic branch of the Red Sea; but it extended also north along the desert of mount Seir to the country of the Moabites; see the note at Isa 60:6.
At the rock of Oreb - At this rock, Gideon killed the two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb Jdg 7:25; and from this circumstance, probably, the name was given to the rock: Lev 11:15; Deu 14:14. It was on the east side of the Jordan.
And as his rod ... - That is, as God punished the Egyptians in the Red Sea.
So shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt - As God overthrew the Egyptians in the Red Sea, so shall he overthrow and destroy the Assyrian. By these two comparisons, therefore, the prophet represents the complete destruction of the Assyrian army. In both of these cases, the enemies of the Jews had been completely overthrown, and so it would be in regard to the hosts of the Assyrian.
His burden shall be taken away - The oppressions and exactions of the Assyrian.
From off thy shoulder - We bear a burden on the shoulder; and hence, any grievous exaction or oppression is represented as borne upon the shoulder.
And his yoke ... - Another image denoting deliverance from oppression and calamity.
And the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing - In the interpretation of these words, expositors have greatly differed. The Hebrew is literally, 'From the face of oil,' מפני-שׁמן mı̂peney-shāmen. The Vulgate renders it, literally, a facie olei. The Septuagint, 'His fear shall be taken from thee, and his yoke from thy shoulders.' The Syraic, 'His yoke shall be broken before the oxen.' The Chaldee Paraphrase, 'The people shall be broken before the Messiah?' Lowth renders it, 'The yoke shall perish from off our shoulders;' following the Septuagint. Grotius suggests that it means that the yoke which the Assyrians had imposed upon the Jews would be broken by Hezekiah, the king who had been annointed with oil. Jarchi also supposes that it refers to one who was anointed - to the king; and many interpreters have referred it to the Messiah, as the anointed of God. Vitringa supposes that the Holy Spirit is here intended.
Kimchi supposes, that the figure is derived from the effect of oil on wood in destroying its consistency, and loosening its fibres; and that the expression means, that the yoke would be broken or dissolved as if it were penetrated with oil. But this is ascribing a property to oil which it does not possess. Dr. Seeker supposes that, instead of "oil," the text should read "shoulder," by a slight change in the Hebrew. But for this conjectural reading there is no authority. Cocceius supposes, that the word "oil" here means "fatness," and is used to denote prosperity and wealth, and that the prophet means to say, that the Assyrian would be corrupted and destroyed by the great amount of wealth which he would amass. The rabbis say, that this deliverance was performed on account of the great quantity of oil which Hezekiah caused to be consumed in the synagogues for the study of the law - a striking instance of the weak and puerile methods of interpretation which they have everywhere evinced. I confess that none of these explanations seem to me to be satisfactory, and that I do not know what is the meaning of the expression.
He is come to Aiath - These verses Isa 10:28-32 contain a description of the march of the army of Sennacherib as he approached Jerusalem to invest it. The description is expressed with great beauty. It is rapid and hurried, and is such as one would give who was alarmed by the sudden and near approach of an enemy - as if while the narrator was stating that the invader had arrived at one place, he had already come to another; or, as if while one messenger should say, that he had come to one place, another should answer that he was still nearer, and a third, that he was nearer still, so as to produce universal consternation. The prophet speaks of this as if he "saw" it (compare the note at Isa. 1): as if, with the glance of the eye, he sees Sennacherib advancing rapidly to Jerusalem. The general course of this march is from the northeast to the southwest toward Jerusalem, and it is possible still to follow the route by the names of the places here mentioned, and which remain at present.
All the places are in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and this shows how much his rapid approach was suited to excite alarm. The name עית ‛ayâth does not occur elsewhere; but עי ‛ay is often mentioned, and עיא ‛ayâ' is found in Neh 11:31. Doubtless, the same city is meant. It was situated near Bethel eastward; Jos 7:2. It was at this place that Joshua was repulsed on account of the sin of Achaz, though the city was afterward taken by Joshua, the king seized and hanged, and the city destroyed. It was afterward rebuilt, and is often mentioned; Ezr 2:28; Neh 7:32. It is called by the Septuagint, Ἀγγαι Angai; and by Josephus, "Aina." In the time of Eusebius and Jerome, its site and scanty ruins were still pointed out, not far distant from Bethel toward the east. The name, however, has at present wholly perished, and no trace of the place now remains. It is probable that it was near the modern Deir Diwan, about three miles to the east of Bethel: "see" Robinson's "Bib. Researches," ii. pp. 119, 312, 313.
He is passed to Migron - That is, he does not remain at Aiath, but is advancing rapidly toward Jerusalem. This place is mentioned in Sa1 14:2, from which it appears that it was near Gibeah, and was in the boundaries of the tribe of Benjamin, to the southwest of Ai and Bethel. No trace of this place now remains.
At Michmash - This was a town within the tribe of Ephraim, on the confines of Benjamin; Ezr 2:27; Neh 7:31. This place is now called Mukhmas, and is situated on a slope or low ridge of land between two small wadys, or water-courses. It is now desolate, but bears the marks of having been a much larger and stronger place than the other towns in the neigchourhood. There are many foundations of hewn stones; and some columns are lying among them. It is about nine miles to the northeast of Jerusalem, and in the immediate neighborhood of Gibeah and Ramah. - Robinson's "Bib. Researches," ii. p. 117. In the time of Eusebius it was a large village. - "Onomast." Art. "Machmas."
He hath laid up his carriages - Hebrew, 'He hath deposited his weapons.' The word rendered "hath laid up" - יפקיד yapeqı̂yd - may possibly mean, "he reviewed," or he took an account of; that is, he made that the place of "review" preparatory to his attack on Jerusalem. Jerome says, that the passage means, that he had such confidence of taking Jerusalem, that he deposited his armor at Michmash, as being unnecessary in the siege of Jerusalem. I think, however, that the passage means simply, that he had made Michmash one of his "stations" to which he had come, and that the expression 'he hath deposited his armor there,' denotes merely that he had come there as one of his stations, and had pitched his camp in that place on the way to Jerusalem. The English word "carriage," sometimes meant formerly, "that which is carried," baggage, vessels, furniture, etc. - "Webster." In this sense it is used in this place, and also in Sa1 17:22; Act 21:15.
They are gone over the passage - The word "passage" (מעברה ma‛ebı̂râh) may refer to any passage or ford of a stream, a shallow part of a river where crossing was practicable; or it may refer to any narrow pass, or place of passing in mountains. The Chaldee Paraphrase renders this, 'They have passed the Jordan;' but this cannot be the meaning, as all the transactions referred to here occurred in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and long after they had crossed the Jordan. In Sa1 13:23, the 'passage of Michmash' is mentioned as the boundary of the garrison of the Philistines. Between Jeb'a and Mukhmas there is now a steep, precipitous valley, which is probably the 'passage' here referred to. This wady, or valley, runs into another that joins it on the north, and then issues out upon the plain not far from Jericho. In the valley are two hills of a conical form, having steep rocky sides, which are probably the rocks mentioned, in connection with Jonathan's adventure, as a narrow defile or way between the rock Bozez on the one side, and Seneh on tbe other; Sa1 14:4-5. This valley appears at a later time to have been the dividing line between the tribes of Ephraim and Benjamin, for Geba on the south side of this valley was the northern limit of Judah and Benjamin Kg2 23:8; while Bethel on its north side was on the southern border of Ephraim; Jdg 16:1-2. - Robinson's "Bib. Researches," ii. p. 116. Of course it was an important place, and could be easily guarded - like the strait of Thermopylae. By his having passed this place is denoted an advance toward Jerusalem, showing that nothing impeded his progress, and that he was rapidly hastening with his army to the city.
They have taken up their lodging at Geba - They have pitched their camp there, being entirely through the defile of Michmash. Hebrew, 'Geba is a lodging place for us;' that is, for the Assyrians. Perhaps, however. there is an error in the common Hebrew text here, and that it should be למו lāmô, 'for them,' instead of לנוּ lānû, 'for us.' The Septuagint and the Chaldee so read it, and so our translators have understood it. "Geba" here is not be confounded with 'Gibeah of Saul,' mentioned just after. It was in the tribe of Benjamin Kg1 15:22; and was on the line, or nearly on the line, of Judah, so as to be its northern boundary; Kg2 23:8. It was not far from Gibeah, or Gibeon. There are at present no traces of the place known.
Ramah - This city was in the tribe of Benjamin. It was between Geba and Gibea. It was called "Ramah," from its being on elevated ground; compare the note at Mat 2:18. "Ramah," now called "er-Ram," lies on a high hill a little east of the road from Jerusalem to Bethel. It is now a miserable village, with few houses, and these in the summer mostly deserted. There are here large square stones, and also columns scattered about in the fields, indicating an ancient place of some importance. A small mosque is here with columns, which seems once to have been a church. Its situation is very conspicuous, and commands a fine prospect. It is near Gibeah, about six Roman miles from Jerusalem. So Jerome, "Commentary" in Hos 5:8 : 'Rama quae est juxta Gabaa in septimo lapide a Jerosolymis sita.' Josephus places it at forty stadia from Jerusalem; "Ant." viii. 12, 3.
Is afraid - Is terrified and alarmed at the approach of Sennacherib - a beautiful variation in the description, denoting his rapid and certain advance on the city of Jerusalem, spreading consternation everywhere.
Gibeah of Saul - This was called 'Gibeah of Saul,' because it was the birthplace of Saul Sa1 11:4; Sa1 15:34; Sa2 21:6; and to distinguish it from Gibea in the tribe of Judah Jos 15:57; and also a Gibeah where Eleazar was burled; Jos 24:33. Jerome mentions Gibeah as in his day level with the ground. - "Epis. 86, ad Eustoch." It has been almost wholly, since his time, unnoticed by travelers. It is probably the same as the modern village of Jeba, lying in a direction to the southwest of Mukhmas. This village is small, and is half in ruins. Among these there are occasionally seen large hewn stones, indicating antiquity. There is here the ruin of a small tower almost solid, and a small building having the appearance of an ancient church. It is an elevated place from which several villages are visible. - Robinson's "Bib. Researches," ii. p. 113.
Is fled - That is, the inhabitants have fled. Such was the consternation produced by the march of the army of Sennacherib, that the city was thrown into commotion, and left empty.
Lift up thy voice - That is, cry aloud from alarm and terror. The prophet here changes the manner of describing the advance of Sennacherib. He had described his rapid march from place to place Isa 10:28-29, and the consternation at Ramah and Gibeah; he now changes the mode of description, and calls on Gallim to lift up her voice of alarm at the approach of the army, so that it might reverberate among the hills, and be heard by neighboring towns.
Daughter - A term often applied to a beautiful city or town; see the note at Isa 1:8.
Gallim - This was a city of Benjamin, north of Jerusalem. It is mentioned only in this place and in Sa1 25:44. No traces of this place are now to be found.
Cause it to be heard - That is, cause thy voice to be heard. Raise the cry of distress and alarm.
Unto Laish - There was a city of this name in the northern part of Palestine, in the bounds of the tribe of Dan; Jdg 18:7, Jdg 18:29. But it is contrary to all the circumstances of the case to suppose, that the prophet refers to a place in the north of Palestine. It was probably a small village in the neighborhood of Gallim. There are at present no traces of the village; in 1 Macc. 9:9, a city of this name is mentioned in the vicinity of Jerusalem, which is, doubtless, the one here referred to.
O poor Anathoth - Anathoth was a city of Benjamin Jos 21:18, where Jeremiah was born; Jer 1:1. 'Anata, which is, doubtless, the same place here intended, is situated on a broad ridge of land, at the distance of one hour and a quarter, or about three miles, from Jerusalem. Josephus describes Anathoth as twenty stadia distant from Jerusalem (Ant. x. 7, 3); and Eusebius and Jerome mention it as about three miles to the north of the city. 'Anata appears to have been once a walled town, and a place of strength. Portions of the wall still remain, built of large hewn stones, and apparently ancient, as are also the foundations of some of the houses. The houses are few, and the people are poor and miserable. From this point there is an extensive view over the whole eastern slope of the mountainous country of Benjamin, including all the valley of the Jordan, and the northern part of the Dead Sea. From this place, also, several of the villages here mentioned are visible. - Robinson's "Bib. Researches," ii. pp. 109-111.
The word "poor," applied to it here (עניה ‛ănı̂yâh) denotes afflicted, oppressed; and the language is that of pity, on account of the impending calamity, and is not designed to be descriptive of its ordinary state. The language in the Hebrew is a paranomasia, a species of writing quite common in the sacred writings; see Gen 1:2; Gen 4:12; Isa 28:10, Isa 28:13; Joe 1:15; Isa 32:7; Mic 1:10, Mic 1:14; Zep 2:4; compare Stuart's "Heb. Gram." Ed. 1, Section 246. The figure abounded not only in the Hebrew but among the Orientals generally. Lowth reads this, 'Answer her, O Anathoth;' following in this the Syriac version, which reads the word rendered "poor" (עניה ‛ănı̂yâh) as a verb from ענה ‛ânâh, to answer, or respond, and supposes that the idea is retained of an "echo," or reverberation among the hills, from which he thinks "Anathoth," from the same verb, took its name. But the meaning of the Hebrew text is that given in our translation. The simple idea is that of neighboring cities and towns lifting up the voice of alarm; at the approach of the enemy.
Madmenah - This city is mentioned nowhere else. The city of Madmanna, or Medemene, mentioned in Jos 15:31, was in the bounds of the tribe of Simeon, and was far south, toward Gaza. It cannot be the place intended here.
Is removed - Or, the inhabitants have fled from fear; see Isa 10:29.
Gebim - This place is unknown. It is nowhere else mentioned.
Gather themselves to flee - A description of the alarm prevailing at the approach of Sennacherib.
As yet shall he remain - This is still a description of his advancing toward Jerusalem. He would make a station at Nob and remain there a day, meaning, perhaps, "only" one day, such would be his impatience to attack and destroy Jerusalem.
At Nob - Nob was a city of Benjamin, inhabited by priests; Neh 11:32. When David was driven away by Saul, he came to this city, and received supplies from Ahimelech the priest; Sa1 21:1-6. Nob must have been situated somewhere upon the ridge of the mount of Olives, to the northeast of the city. So Jerome, professedly from Hebrew tradition, says, 'Stans in oppidulo Nob et procul urbem conspiciens Jerusalem.' - "Commentary in loc." Messrs. Robinson and Smith sought all along the ridge of the mount of Olives, from the Damascus road to the summit opposite to the city, for some traces of an ancient site which might be regarded as the place of Nob; but without the slightest success. - "Bib. Researches," ii. p. 150.
He shall shake his hand - That is, in the attitude of menace, or threatening. This language implies, that the city of Nob was so near to Jerusalem that the latter city could be seen from it; and the description denotes, that at the sight of Jerusalem Sennacherib would be full of indignation, and utter against it the threat of speedy and complete ruin.
The mount of the daughter of Zion - See the note at Isa 1:8. The Chaldee renders this, 'He shall come, and stand in Nob, the city of the priests, over against the wall of Jerusalem, and shall answer and say to his army, "Is not this that city of Jerusalem against which I have assembled all my armies, and on account of which I have made an exaction on all my provinces? And lo, it is less and more feeble than any of the defenses of the people which I have subjected in the strength of my hand." Over against that he shall stand, and shake his head, and shall bring his hand against the mount of the sanctuary which is Zion, and against the court which is in Jerusalem.' Jarchi and Kimchi say, that Nob was so near to Jerusalem that it could be seen from thence; and hence, this is mentioned as the last station of the army of the Assyrian, the end of his march, and where the prize seemed to be within his grasp.
Behold, the Lord ... - The prophet had described, in the previous verses, the march of the Assyrians toward Jerusalem, station by station. He had accompanied him in his description until he had arrived in full sight of the city, which was the object of all his preparation. He had described the consternation which was felt at his approach in all the smaller towns. Nothing had been able to stand before him; and now, flushed with success, and confident that Jerusalem would fall, he stands before the devoted city. But here, the prophet announces that his career was to close; and here his arms to be stayed. Here he was to meet with an overthrow, and Jerusalem would still be safe. This is the design of the prophecy, to comfort the inhabitants of Jerusalem with the assurance that they still would be safe.
Will lop the bough - The word "bough" here (פארה pû'râh) is from פאר pâ'ar to adorn, to beautify; and is given to a branch or bough of a tree on account of its beauty. It is, therefore, descriptive of that which is beautiful, honored, proud; and is applied to the Assyrian on account of his pride and magnificence. In Isa 10:18-19, the prophet had described the army of the Assyrian as a magnificent forest. Here he says that the glory of that army should be destroyed, as the vitality and beauty of the waving bough of a tree is quickly destroyed when it is lopped with an axe. There can scarcely be conceived a description, that would more beautifully represent the fading strength of the army of the Assyrian than this.
With terror - In such a way as to inspire terror.
The high ones of stature - The chief men and officers of the army.
And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest - The army of the Assyrians, described here as a thick, dense forest; compare Isa 10:18-19.
With iron - As a forest is cut down with an axe, so the prophet uses this phrase here, to keep up and carry out the figure. The army was destroyed with the pestilence Kg2 19:35; but it fell as certainly as a forest falls before the axe.
And Lebanon - Lebanon is here evidently descriptive of the army of the Assyrian, retaining the idea of a beautiful and magnificent forest. Thus, in Eze 31:3, it is said, 'the king of the Assyrians was a cedar of Lebanon with fair branches.' Lebanon is usually applied to the Jews as descriptive of them (Jer 22:6, Jer 22:23; Zac 10:10; 11: l), but it is evidently applied here to the Assyrian army; and the sense is, that that army should be soon and certainly destroyed, and that, therefore, the inhabitants of Jerusalem had no cause of alarm; see the notes at Isa. 37.