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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Isaiah Chapter 4

Isaiah 4:1

isa 4:1

When war shall thus unsparingly have swept away the men of Zion, a most unnatural effect will ensue, namely, that women will go in search of husbands, and not men in search of wives. "And seven women lay hold of one man in that day, saying, We will eat our won bread, and wear our own clothes; only let thy name be named upon us, take away our reproach." The division of the chapters is a wrong one here, as this v. is the closing v. of the prophecy against the women, and the closing portion of the whole address does not begin till Isa 4:2. The present pride of the daughters of Zion, every one of whom now thought herself the greatest as the wife of such and such a man, and for whom many men were now the suitors, would end in this unnatural self-humiliation, that seven of them would offer themselves to the same man, the first man who presented himself, and even renounce the ordinary legal claim upon their husband for clothing and food (Exo 21:10). It would be quite sufficient for them to be allowed to bear his name ("let thy name be named upon us:" the name is put upon the thing named, as giving it its distinctness and character), if he would only take away their reproach (namely, the reproach of being unmarried, Isa 54:4, as in Gen 30:23, of being childless) by letting them be called his wives. The number seven (seven women to one man) may be explained on the ground that there is a bad seven as well as a holy one (e.g., Mat 12:45).

In Isa 4:1 the threat denounced against the women of Jerusalem is brought to a close. It is the side-piece to the threat denounced against the national rulers. And these two scenes of judgment were only parts of the general judgment about to fall upon Jerusalem and Judah, as a state or national community. And this again was merely a portion, viz., the central group of the picture of a far more comprehensive judgment, which was about to fall upon everything lofty and exalted on the earth. Jerusalem, therefore, stands here as the centre and focus of the great judgment-day. It was in Jerusalem that the ungodly glory which was ripe for judgment was concentrated; and it was in Jerusalem also that the light of the true and final glory would concentrate itself. To this promise, with which the address returns to its starting-point, the prophet now passes on without any further introduction. In fact it needed no introduction, for the judgment in itself was the medium of salvation. When Jerusalem was judged, it would be sifted; and by being sifted, it would be rescued, pardoned, glorified. The prophet proceeds in this sense to speak of what would happen in that day, and describes the one great day of God at the end of time (not a day of four-and-twenty hours any more than the seven days of creation were), according to its general character, as opening with judgment, but issuing in salvation.

Isaiah 4:2

isa 4:2

"In that day will the sprout of Jehovah become an ornament and glory, and the fruit of the land pride and splendour for the redeemed of Israel." The four epithets of glory, which are here grouped in pairs, strengthen our expectation, that now that the mass of Israel has been swept away, together with the objects of its worthless pride, we shall find a description of what will become an object of well-grounded pride to the "escaped of Israel," i.e., to the remnant that has survived the judgment, and been saved from destruction. But with this interpretation of the promise it is impossible that it can be the church of the future itself, which is here called the "sprout of Jehovah" and "fruit of the land," as Luzzatto and Malbim suppose; and equally impossible, with such an antithesis between what is promised and what is abolished, that the "sprout of Jehovah" and "fruit of the earth" should signify the harvest blessings bestowed by Jehovah, or the rich produce of the land. For although the expression zemach Jehovah (sprout of Jehovah) may unquestionably be used to signify this, as in Gen 2:9 and Psa 104:14 (cf., Isa 61:11), and fruitfulness of the land is a standing accompaniment of the eschatological promises (e.g., Isa 30:23., compare the conclusion of Joel and Amos), and it was also foretold that the fruitful fields of Israel would become a glory in the sight of the nations (Eze 34:29; Mal 3:12; cf., Joe 2:17); yet this earthly material good, of which, moreover, there was no lack in the time of Uzziah and Jotham, was altogether unsuitable to set forth such a contrast as would surpass and outshine the worldly glory existing before. But even granting what Hofmann adduces in support of this view - namely, that the natural God-given blessings of the field do form a fitting antithesis to the studied works of art of which men had hitherto been proud - there is still truth in the remark of Rosenmller, that "the magnificence of the whole passage is at variance with such an interpretation." Only compare Isa 28:5, where Jehovah Himself is described in the same manner, as the glory and ornament of the remnant of Israel. But if the "sprout of Jehovah" is neither the redeemed remnant itself, nor the fruit of the field, it must be the name of the Messiah. And it is in this sense that it has been understood by the Targum, and by such modern commentators as Rosenmller, Hengstenberg, Steudel, Umbreit, Caspari, Drechsler, and others. The great King of the future is called zemach, ἀνατολή in the sense of Heb 7:14, viz., as a shoot springing out of the human, Davidic, earthly soil - a shoot which Jehovah had planted in the earth, and would cause to break through and spring forth as the pride of His congregation, which was waiting for this heavenly child. It is He again who is designated in the parallel clause as the "fruit of the land" (or lit., fruit of the earth), as being the fruit which the land of Israel, and consequently the earth itself, would produce, just as in Eze 17:5 Zedekiah is called a "seed of the earth." The reasons already adduced to show that "the sprout of Jehovah" cannot refer to the blessings of the field, apply with equal force to "the fruit of the earth." This also relates to the Messiah Himself, regarded as the fruit in which all the growth and bloom of this earthly history would eventually reach its promised and divinely appointed conclusion. The use of this double epithet to denote "the coming One" can only be accounted for, without anticipating the New Testament standpoint,

(Note: From a New Testament point of view we might say that the "sprout of Jehovah" or "fruit of the earth" was the grain of wheat which redeeming love sowed in the earth on Good Friday; the grain of wheat which began to break through the ground and grow towards heaven on Easter Sunday; the grain of wheat whose golden blade ascended heavenwards on Ascension Day; the grain of wheat whose myriad-fold ear bent down to the earth on the day of Pentecost, and poured out the grains, from which the holy church not only was born, but still continues to be born. But such thoughts as these lie outside the historico-grammatical meaning.)

from the desire to depict His double-sided origin. He would come, on the one hand, from Jehovah; but, on the other hand, from the earth, inasmuch as He would spring from Israel. We have here the passage, on the basis of which zemach (the sprout of "Branch") was adopted by Jeremiah (Jer 23:5 and Jer 33:15) and Zechariah (Zac 3:8; Zac 6:12) as a proper name for the Messiah, and upon which Matthew, by combining this proper name zemach (sprout) with nezer (Isa 11:1, cf., Isa 53:2), rests his affirmation, that according to the Old Testament prophecies the future Messiah was to be called a Nazarene. It is undoubtedly strange that this epithet should be introduced so entirely without preparation even by Isaiah, who coined it first. In fact, the whole passage relating to the Messiah stands quite alone in this cycle of prophecies in chapters 1-6. But the book of Isaiah is a complete and connected work. What the prophet indicates merely in outline here, he carries out more fully in the cycle of prophecies which follows in chapters 7-12; and there the enigma, which he leaves as an enigma in the passage before us, receives the fullest solution. Without dwelling any further upon the man of the future, described in this enigmatically symbolical way, the prophet hurries on to a more precise description of the church of the future.

Isaiah 4:3

isa 4:3

"And it will come to pass, whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem, holy will he be called, all who are written down for life in Jerusalem." The leading emphasis of the whole v. rests upon kadosh (holy). Whereas formerly in Jerusalem persons had been distinguished according to their rank and condition, without any regard to their moral worth (Isa 3:1-3, Isa 3:10-11; cf., Isa 32:5); so the name kadosh (holy) would now be the one chief name of honour, and would be given to every individual, inasmuch as the national calling of Israel would now be realized in the persons of all (Exo 19:6, etc.). Consequently the expression "he shall be called" is not exactly equivalent to "he shall be," but rather presupposes the latter, as in Isa 1:26; Isa 61:6; Isa 62:4. The term kadosh denotes that which is withdrawn from the world, or separated from it. The church of the saints or holy ones, which now inhabits Jerusalem, is what has been left from the smelting; and their holiness is the result of washing. הנוּתר is interchanged with נהנּשׁאר. The latter, as Papenheim has shown in his Hebrew synonyms, involves the idea of intention, viz., "that which has been left behind;" the former merely expresses the fact, viz., that which remains. The character of this "remnant of grace," and the number of members of which it would consist, are shown in the apposition contained in Isa 4:3. This apposition means something more than those who are entered as living in Jerusalem, i.e., the population of Jerusalem as entered in the city register (Hofmann); for the verb with Lamed does not mean merely to enter as a certain thing, but (like the same verb with the accusative in Jer 22:30) to enter as intended for a certain purpose. The expression להיּים may either be taken as a noun, viz., "to life" (Dan 12:2), or as an adjective, "to the living" (a meaning which is quite as tenable; cf., Psa 69:29; Sa1 25:29). In either case the notion of predestination is implied, and the assumption of the existence of a divine "book of life" (Exo 32:32-33; Dan 12:1; cf., Psa 139:16); so that the idea is the same as that of Act 13:48 : "As many as were ordained to eternal life." The reference here is to persons who were entered in the book of God, on account of the good kernel of faith within them, as those who should become partakers of the life in the new Jerusalem, and should therefore be spared in the midst of the judgment of sifting in accordance with this divine purpose of grace. For it was only through the judgment setting this kernel of faith at liberty, that such a holy community as is described in the protasis which comes afterwards, as in Psa 63:6-7, could possibly arise.

Isaiah 4:4

isa 4:4

"When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged away the bloodguiltinesses of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of sifting." "When," followed by a preterite (equivalent to a fut. exact. as in Isa 24:13; Ges. 126, 5), introduces the circumstance, whose previous occurrence would be the condition of all the rest. The force of the future yâdiach ("shall have purged") is regulated by that of the preterite râchatz, as in Isa 6:11; for although, when regarded simply by itself, as in Isa 10:12, the future tense may suggest the idea of a future prefect, it cannot have the force of such a future. The double purification answers to the two scenes of judgment described in chapter 3. The filth of the daughters of Zion is the moral pollution hidden under their vain and coquettish finery; and the murderous deeds of Jerusalem are the acts of judicial murder committed by its rulers upon the poor and innocent. This filth and these spots of blood the Sovereign Ruler washes and purges away (see Ch2 4:6), by causing His spirit or His breath to burst in upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, both male and female. This breath is called "the spirit of judgment," because it punishes evil; and "the spirit of sifting," inasmuch as it sweeps or cleans it away. בּער is to be explained, as in Isa 6:13, in accordance with Deu 13:6 (5, Eng. Ver.; "put the evil away") and other passages, such especially as Isa 19:13; Isa 21:9. The rendering given in the Septuagint and Vulgate, viz., "in the spirit of burning," is founded upon the radical meaning of the verb, which signifies literally to burn up, and hence to clear away or destroy (see Comm. on Job, at Job 31:12, Eng. Tr.). Nevertheless, "burning" in connection with judgment is not definite enough, since every manifestation of divine judgment is a manifestation of fire; but it is not every judgment that has connected with it what is here implied - namely, the salutary object of burning away or, in other words, of winnowing. The "spirit" is in both instances the Spirit of God which pervades the world, not only generating and sustaining life, but also at times destroying and sifting (Isa 30:27-28), as it does in the case before us, in which the imperishable glory described in Isa 3:5 is so prepared.

Isaiah 4:5

isa 4:5

"And Jehovah creates over every spot of Mount Zion, and over its festal assemblies, a cloud by day, and smoke, and the shining of flaming fire by night: for over all the glory comes a canopy." Just as Jehovah guided and shielded Israel in the days of the redemption from Egypt in a smoke-cloud by day and a fire-cloud by night, which either moved in front like a pillar, or floated above them as a roof (Num 14:14, etc.), the perpetuation of His presence at Sinai (Exo 19:9, Exo 19:16.); so would Jehovah in like manner shield the Israel of the final redemption, which would no longer need the pillar of cloud since its wanderings would be over, but only the cloudy covering; and such a covering Jehovah would create, as the praet. consec. וּברא) ("and He creates") distinctly affirms. The verb bârâh always denotes a divine and miraculous production, having its commencement in time; for even the natural is also supernatural in its first institution by God. In the case before us, however, the reference is to a fresh manifestation of His gracious presence, exalted above the present course of nature. This manifestation would consist by day in "a cloud," and as the hendiadys "cloud and smoke" (i.e., cloud in form and smoke in substance) distinctly affirms, a smoke-cloud, not a watery cloud, like those which ordinarily cover the sky; and by night in a fiery splendour, not merely a lingering fiery splendour like that of the evening sky, but, as the words clearly indicate, a flaming brightness (lehâbâh ), and therefore real and living fire. The purpose of the cloud would not only be to overshadow, but also to serve as a wall of defence against opposing influences;

(Note: The cloud derived its name, ‛ânân, not from the idea of covering, but from that of coming to meet one. The clouds come towards the man who gazes at them, inserting themselves between him and the sky, and thus forcing themselves upon his notice instead of the sky; hence the visible outer side of the vault of heaven is also called ‛anan (plur. ‛anân), just as the same word is used to denote the outermost portion of the branches or foliage of a tree which is the first to strike the eye (in contradistinction to the inner portions, which are not so easily seen, seven if visible at all).)

and the fire would not only give light, but by flaming and flashing would ward off hostile powers. But, above all, the cloud and fire were intended as signs of the nearness of God, and His satisfaction. In the most glorious times of the temple a smoke-cloud of this kind filled the Holy of holies; and there was only one occasion - namely, at the dedication of Solomon's temple - on which it filled the whole building (Kg1 8:10); but now the cloud, the smoke of which, moreover, would be turned at night into flaming fire, would extend over every spot (mâcōn, a more poetical word for mâkōm) of Mount Zion, and over the festal assemblies thereon. The whole mountain would thus become a Holy of holies. It would be holy not only as being the dwelling-place of Jehovah, but as the gathering-place of a community of saints. "Her assemblies" (mikrâehâ) points back to Zion, and is a plural written defectively (at least in our editions),

(Note: Such codices and ancient editions as Soncino (1488), Brescia (1494), and many others, have the word with the yod of the plural.)

- as, for example, in Jer 19:8. There is no necessity to take this noun in the sense of "meeting halls" (a meaning which it never has anywhere else), as Gesenius, Ewald, Hitzig, and others have done, since it may also signify "the meetings," though not in an abstract, but in a concrete sense (ecclesiae).

(Note: It is doubtful whether the form מפעל (מפעל) is ever strictly a nomen actionis kal (Ges. 84, 14). Its meaning seems rather to be always concrete, even in Arabic, where menâm signifies a sleeping-place, sleeping-time, or a dream, but never sleep, or sleeping (like inse, Heb. shenâh, or naum, Heb. nūm).)

The explanatory clause, "for over all the glory (comes) a canopy," admits of several interpretations. Dr. Shegg and others take it in the general sense: "for defence and covering are coming for all that is glorious." Now, even if this thought were not so jejune as it is, the word Chuppâh would not be the word used to denote covering for the sake of protection; it signifies rather covering for the sake of beautifying and honouring that which is covered. Chuppâh is the name still given by the Jews to the wedding canopy, i.e., a canopy supported on four poles and carried by four boys, under which the bride and bridegroom receive the nuptial blessing - a meaning which is apparently more appropriate, even in Psa 19:6 and Joe 2:16, than the ordinary explanation thalamus to torus. Such a canopy would float above Mount Zion in the form of a cloud of smoke and blaze of fire. (There is no necessity to take Chuppâh as a third pers. pual, since תּהיה, which follows immediately afterwards in Isa 4:6, may easily be supplied in thought.) The only question is whether Col Câbōd signifies "every kind of glory," or according to Psa 39:6; Psa 45:14, "pure glory" (Hofmann, Stud. u. Krit. 1847, pp. 936-38). The thought that Jerusalem would now be "all glory," as its inhabitants were all holiness, and therefore that this shield would be spread out over pure glory, is one that thoroughly commends itself. but we nevertheless prefer the former, as more in accordance with the substantive clause. The glory which Zion would now possess would be exposed to no further injury: Jehovah would acknowledge it by signs of His gracious presence; for henceforth there would be nothing glorious in Zion, over which there would not be a canopy spread in the manner described, shading and yet enlightening, hiding, defending, and adorning it.

Isaiah 4:6

isa 4:6

Thus would Zion be a secure retreat from all adversities and disasters."And it will be a booth for shade by day from the heat of the sun, and for a refuge and covert from storm and from rain." The subject to "will be" is not the miraculous roofing; for ânân (cloud) is masculine, and the verb feminine, and there would be no sense in saying that a Chuppâh or canopy would be a succâh or booth. Either, therefore, the verb contains the subject in itself, and the meaning is, "There will be a booth" (the verb hâyâh being used in a pregnant sense, as in Isa 15:6; Isa 23:13); or else Zion (Isa 4:5) is the subject. We prefer the latter. Zion or Jerusalem would be a booth, that is to say, as the parallel clause affirms, a place of security and concealment (mistor, which only occurs here, is used on account of the alliteration with machseh in the place of sether, which the prophet more usually employs, viz., in Isa 28:17; Isa 32:2). "By day" (yōmâm, which is construed with לצל in the construct state, cf., Eze 30:16) is left intentionally without any "by night" to answer to it in the parallel clause, because reference is made to a place of safety and concealment for all times, whether by day or night. Heat, storm, and rain are mentioned as examples to denote the most manifold dangers; but it is a singular fact that rain, which is a blessing so earnestly desired in the time of Chōreb, i.e., of drought and burning heat, should also be included. At the present day, when rain falls in Jerusalem, the whole city dances with delight. Nevertheless rain, i.e., the rain which falls from the clouds, is not paradisaical; and its effects are by no means unfrequently destructive. According to the archives of Genesis, rain from the clouds took the place of dew for the first time at the flood, when it fell in a continuous and destructive form. The Jerusalem of the last time will be paradise restored; and there men will be no longer exposed to destructive changes of weather. In this prediction the close of the prophetic discourse is linked on to the commencement. This mountain of Zion, roofed over with a cloud of smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night, is no other than the mountain of the house of Jehovah, which was to be exalted above all the mountains, and to which the nations would make their pilgrimage; and this Jerusalem, so holy within, and all glorious without, is no other than the place from which the word of Jehovah was one day to go forth into all the world. But what Jerusalem is this? Is it the Jerusalem of the time of final glory awaiting the people of God in this life, as described in Rev 11 (for, notwithstanding all that a spiritualistic and rationalistic anti-chiliasm may say, the prophetic words of both Old and New Testament warrant us in expecting such a time of glory in this life); or is it the Jerusalem of the new heaven and new earth described in Rev 20:1-15 :21? The true answer is, "Both in one." The prophet's real intention was to depict the holy city in its final and imperishable state after the last judgment. But to his view, the state beyond and the closing state here were blended together, so that the glorified Jerusalem of earth and the glorified Jerusalem of heaven appeared as if fused into one. It was a distinguishing characteristic of the Old Testament, to represent the closing scene on this side the grave, and the eternal state beyond, as a continuous line, having its commencement here. The New Testament first drew the cross line which divides time from eternity. It is true, indeed, as the closing chapters of the Apocalypse show, that even the New Testament prophecies continue to some extent to depict the state beyond in figures drawn from the present world; with this difference, however, that when the line had once been drawn, the demand was made, of which there was no consciousness in the Old Testament, that the figures taken from this life should be understood as relating to the life beyond, and that eternal realities should be separated from their temporal forms.

Next: Isaiah Chapter 5