|<< Isaiah 44 >>|
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
This chapter, besides promises of redemption, of the effusion of the Spirit, and success of the Gospel, Isaiah 44:1-5, sets forth, in a very sublime manner, the supreme power and foreknowledge, and absolute eternity, of the one true God; and exposes the folly and absurdity of idolatry with admirable force and elegance, Isaiah 44:6-20. And to show that the knowledge of future events belongs only to Jehovah, whom all creation is again called to adore for the deliverance and reconciliation granted to his people, Isaiah 44:21-23, the prophet concludes with setting in a very strong point of view the absolute impotence of every thing considered great and insurmountable in the sight of men, when standing in the way of the Divine counsel; and mentions the future deliverer of the Jewish nation expressly by name, nearly two hundred years before his birth, Isaiah 44:24-28.
1Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:
2Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.
Jesurun - Jeshurun means Israel. This name was given to that people by Moses, Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26. The most probable account of it seems to be that in which the Jewish commentators agree; namely, that it is derived from ישר yashar, and signifies upright. In the same manner, Israel, as a people, is called משלם meshullam, perfect, Isaiah 42:19, They were taught of God, and abundantly furnished with the means of rectitude and perfection in his service and worship. Grotius thinks that ישרון yeshurun is a diminutive of ישראל yishrael, Israel; expressing peculiar fondness and affection; Ισραηλιδιον, O little Israel.
3For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
"Here the two last lines explain the metaphor in the two preceding."
As the gift of prophecy was the greatest which God gave to men upon earth, so the prophet, as being the immediate instrument of revealing the will of God to the people, was the greatest, the most important, the most august, venerable, and useful person in the land of Israel. Ipsi eis exeant, says St. Augustine, philosophi ipsi sapientes, ipsi theologi, ipsi prophetae, ipsi doctores probitatis ac pietatis; "They were to the people the philosophers, the wise men, the divines, the prophets, and the teachers of truth and godliness." By their intercourse with God, they were his mediators with the people; and their persons, as well as their office, were considered as peculiarly sacred. They did not mix with the people, and only appeared in public when they came to announce the will of God. They were also a kind of typical persons - whatever occurred to them was instructive, so that they were for signs, metaphors, and portents.
Most of the ancient prophets were extraordinary messengers. They were not bred up to the prophetic function; as the office was immediately from God, as well as the message they were to deliver to the people, so they had no previous education, in reference to such an office, for no man knew whom the God of Israel might please to call to announce his righteousness to the people. Several of them were taken out of the walks of common life. Jonah appears to have been a private person at Gath-heper, in Galilee, before God called him to prophesy against Nineveh. Elisha was a ploughman at Abel-meholah (1 Kings 19:16) when called to the prophetic function. Zechariah appears to have been a husbandman, and a keeper of cattle, Zechariah 13:5. Amos was a herdsman of Tekoa, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; (Amos 1:1; Amos 7:14, Amos 7:15); and no doubt several others of the ancient prophets had an equally mean origin; but the office and the calling dignified the man. We know that our blessed Lord called not his disciples from the higher walks or offices of life; but out of fishermen, tax-gatherers, and tent-makers, he formed evangelists and apostles.
The prophets appear to have gone in mean clothing; either sack-cloth, hair-cloth, or coats of skin appear to have been their ordinary clothing. They spoke against the pride and vain-glory of man; and their very garb and manner gave additional weight to the solemn words they delivered. They lived in a retired manner; and, when not sent on special errands, they employed their vacant time in the instruction of youth; as this is probably what we are to understand by the schools of the prophets, such as those over which Elijah, Elisha, and Samuel presided; though no doubt there were some of their disciples that were made partakers of the prophetic gift.
The prophets do not appear to have been called to a life of celibacy. Isaiah was a married man, Isaiah 8:3; and so was Hosea, Isaiah 1:2; unless we are to understand the latter case enigmatically. And that the sons of the prophets had wives, we learn from 2 Kings 4:1, etc.; and from this, as well as from the case of the apostles, we learn that the matrimonial state was never considered, either by Moses or the prophets, Christ or his apostles, as disqualifying men from officiating in the most holy offices; as we find Moses, Aaron, Isaiah, Zechariah, and Peter, all married men, and yet the most eminent of their order.
Of Isaiah, the writer of this book, very little is known. He is supposed to have been of the tribe of Judah, and of the royal family of David. Himself says that he was son of Amoz; and others tell us that this Amoz was the son of Joash, and brother of Amaziah, king of Judah. "Of his family and tribe we know nothing," says R. D. Kimchi, "only our rabbins, of blessed memory, have received the tradition that Amoz and Amaziah were brothers;" and it is on this ground that he has been called the royal prophet. It has been also said that Isaiah gave his daughter in marriage to Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, king of Judah; and that himself was put to death by Manasseh, being sawn asunder with a wooden saw. But all these traditions stand on very slender authority, and are worthy of very little regard. Several commentators have thought that his prophecies afford presumptive evidence of his high descent and elegant education:
1. Because his style is more correct and majestic than any of the other prophets.
2. That his frequent use of images taken from royalty is a proof that this state was familiar to him, being much at court, as he must have been, had he been the brother of the king.
These things are spoken by many with much confidence; for my own part, I had rather look to his inspiration for the correctness of his language and the dignity of his sentiments, than to those very inferior helps. On the other hypothesis nothing is left to the Divine Spirit, except the mere matter of his prophecies. Suppositions of this kind are not creditable to Divine revelation.
Isaiah appears to have had two sons, who were typical in their names; one, Shear-jashub, "a remnant shall return," Isaiah 7:3; and the other Maher-shalal-hash-baz, "haste to the spoil; quick to the prey;" Isaiah 8:3; and it is remarkable, that his wife is called a prophetess. Other matters relative to his character will appear in the notes on his prophecies.
In the notes on this book I have consulted throughout the commentary of Rabbi David Kimchi, and have made much use of Bishop Lowth, as the reader will perceive. His various readings I have re-collated with Dr. Kennicott, and B. De Rossi; in consequence of which I have been enabled in many cases to add double weight to the authorities by which the learned bishop was supported in the readings which he has either mentioned, or received into the text. Bishop Lowth could avail himself only of the collections of Dr. Kennicott - the sheets of Isaiah in the doctor's edition of the Hebrew Bible, as they passed through the press, were sent by him to the Bishop; but the Collections of De Rossi, more numerous and more accurate than those of Dr. Kennicott, were not published till six years after the doctor had published his Bible, and about one year before this most learned and pious prelate went to his reward. I have also consulted some excellent Hebrew MSS. in my own library from six to eight hundred years old, which have afforded me additional help in estimating the worth and importance of the various readings in the above Collections of Kenicott and De Rossi, as far as they are employed in the illustration of this prophet. From the ancient English MS. Version of this prophet I have extracted several curious translations of select parts, which I have no doubt will meet with every reader's approbation. Though I have followed Bishop Lowth chiefly, yet I have consulted the best commentators within my reach, in order to remove doubts and clear up difficult passages, but have studied to be as brief as possible, that the sacred text might not be encumbered either with the multitude or length of the notes, nor the reader's time occupied with any thing not essentially necessary; besides, I wish to bring my work to as speedy a close as possible.
This book, according to Vitringa, is twofold in its matter: 1. Prophetical; 2.Historical.
1. The prophetical is divided into five parts:
Part 1: From Isaiah 1:to Isaiah 13:is directed to the Jews and Ephraimites, and contains five prophetic discourses.
Part 2: From Isaiah 13:to Isaiah 24:declares the fate of the Babylonians, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Egyptians, Tyrians, and others; and contains eight prophetic discourses.
Part 3: From Isaiah 24:to Isaiah 36:denounces judgments on the disobedient Jews, and consoles the true followers of God. This contains three discourses.
Part 4: From Isaiah 40:to Isaiah 49:refers to the Messiah and the deliverance of the Jews from the Babylonians; and contains four discourses.
Part 5: From Isaiah 49:to the end, points out the passion, crucifixion, and glory of the Messiah, and contains five discourses.
2. The historical part begins with Isaiah 36, and ends with Isaiah 39:1-8, and relates some of the transactions of the prophet's own times. On this analysis Vitringa explains the whole prophecy. For my own part I have little or no confidence in such technical arrangements.
Calmet takes a different view of it. He divides it into eight parts, viz.:
Part 1: he supposes to relate to Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah: this is included in the first six chapters. The prophet inveighs against the crimes of the Jews; declares the judgments of God against them; predicts a more auspicious time, which took place under Hezekiah, who was a type of Christ.
Part 2: concerns the reign of Ahaz, and comprehends the six following chapters, in which he speaks of the siege of Jerusalem by Pekah and Resin; of the birth of Immanuel, as a proof of the approaching deliverance of Judah; predicts the calamities that were to fall on the kingdoms of Syria and Israel, etc.
Part 3: contains many prophecies against Babylon, the Philistines, Moabites, etc.
Part 4: contains prophecies against Egypt, Babylon, Kedar, Arabia, etc.
Part 5: concerns the reign of Hezekiah, and especially the war of Sennacherib against the Jews, etc. The four historical chapters inserted here contain the account of the fulfillment of the preceding prophecy.
Part 6, included in Isaiah 40 to Isaiah 45 inclusive, contains the prophet's discourses on the existence of God, the truth and perfection of the Jewish religion, the vanity of idolatry, the return of the people from captivity, and the coming of Christ.
Part 7: from Isaiah 49:to Isaiah 51, the prophet, personifying the Messiah, speaks of his sufferings, death, and burial; predicts the return from the Babylonish captivity, and the glory of the latter days.
Part 8: speaks of the coming of the Messiah, and the vocation of the Gentiles; the disgrace and confusion of all false prophets and teachers; and the establishment of a pure and holy Church, etc.
I might give other analyses of this book, but it is needless; from what is before the reader he will at once see how vain all attempts of this kind are, and how foolish to make divisions and subdivisions, partitions and classifications, where the Spirit of God has given no intimations of the kind, and where even the most learned men differ in their arrangement.
"God never left his work for man to mend." The prophecies were given as they were necessary, and no classification was ever intended. We should take them up as we find them; and humbly endeavor to find out their objects and meaning, and how far ourselves are interested in these denunciations of Divine wrath; and in those glorious promises of mercy and salvation through Him who was once the hope of Israel, and now is salvation to the ends of the earth.
Bishop Lowth's translation is by far the best that has ever been made of this sublime prophet: as he thoroughly understood his language, so he entered deeply into his spirit. Were it allowable, I should be glad to supersede what is called the authorized version, and put that of the learned bishop, with a few genuine alterations, in its place, as being abundantly more correct and nervous, rendering the sacred text more clearly, and consequently more intelligibly, so that the common reader can understand this text better without a comment, than he can the authorized version even with one. His notes, which are a treasure of learning and sound criticism, I have almost universally preserved, intermingling them with my own; but large quotations from his notes I have distinguished by the letter L.; and I have often adopted his text, as being vastly superior to that in common use; the catch words from which follow those from the authorized version. Should a new translation of the Bible be ever published by authority, I have no doubt but, with a few alterations, that of Bishop Lowth would be adopted as the standard.
Millbrook, Sept. 24, 1823.
The prophet, with a boldness and majesty becoming the herald of the Most High, begins with calling on the whole creation to attend while Jehovah speaks, Isaiah 1:2. A charge of gross insensibility and ingratitude is then brought against the Jews, by contrasting their conduct with that of the ox end ass, the most stupid of animals, Isaiah 1:3. This leads to an amplification of their guilt, Isaiah 1:4; highly aggravated by their slighting the chastisements and judgments of God, though repeated till they had been left almost like Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaiah 1:5-9. The incidental mention of those places leads to an address to the rulers and people of the Jews, under the character of princes of Sodom, and people of Gomorrah, which is no less spirited and severe than elegant and unexpected, Isaiah 1:10. The vanity of trusting to the performance of the outward rites and ceremonies of religion is then exposed, Isaiah 1:11-15; and the necessity of repentance and reformation is strongly enjoined, Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:17, and urged by the most encouraging promises as well as by the most awful threatenings, Isaiah 1:18-20. But neither of these producing the proper effect on that people who were the prophet's charge, he bitterly laments their degeneracy, Isaiah 1:21-23; and concludes with introducing God, declaring his purpose of inflicting such heavy judgments as would entirely cut off the wicked, and excite in the righteous, who should also pass through the furnace, an everlasting shame and abhorrence of every thing connected with idolatry, the source of their misery, Isaiah 1:24-31.
Isaiah exercised the prophetical office during a long period of time, if he lived to the reign of Manasseh; for the lowest computation, beginning from the year in which Uzziah died, when some suppose him to have received his first appointment to that office, brings it to sixty-one years. But the tradition of the Jews, that he was put to death by Manasseh, is very uncertain; and one of their principal rabbins, Aben Ezra, Com. in Isaiah 1:1, seems rather to think that he died before Hezekiah, which is indeed more probable. It is however certain that he lived at least to the fifteenth or sixteenth year of Hezekiah; this makes the least possible term of the duration of his prophetical office about forty-eight years. The time of the delivery of some of his prophecies is either expressly marked, or sufficiently clear from the history to which they relate; that of a few others may with some probability be deduced from internal marks; from expressions, descriptions, and circumstances interwoven. It may therefore be of some use in this respect, and for the better understanding of his prophecies in general, to give here a summary view of the history of his time.
The kingdom of Judah seems to have been in a more flourishing condition during the reigns of Uzziah and Jotham, than at any other time after the revolt of the ten tribes. The former recovered the port of Elath on the Red Sea, which the Edomites had taken in the reign of Joram. He was successful in his wars with the Philistines, and took from them several cities, Gath, Jabneh, Ashdod; as likewise against some people of Arabia Deserta, and against the Ammonites, whom he compelled to pay him tribute. He repaired and improved the fortifications of Jerusalem; and had a great army, well appointed and disciplined. He was no less attentive to the arts of peace; and very much encouraged agriculture, and the breeding of cattle. Jotham maintained the establishments and improvements made by his father; added to what Uzziah had done in strengthening the frontier places; conquered the Ammonites, who had revolted, and exacted from them a more stated and probably a larger tribute. However, at the latter end of his time, the league between Pekah, king of Israel, and Retsin, king of Syria, was formed against Judah; and they began to carry their designs into execution.
But in the reign of Ahaz his son not only all these advantages were lost, but the kingdom of Judah was brought to the brink of destruction. Pekah king of Israel overthrew the army of Ahaz, who lost in battle one hundred and twenty thousand men; and the Israelites carried away captives two hundred thousand women and children, who however were released and sent home again upon the remonstrance of the prophet Oded. After this, as it should seem, (see Vitrinpa on Isaiah 7:2), the two kings of Israel and Syria, joining their forces, laid siege to Jerusalem; but in this attempt they failed of success. In this distress Ahaz called in the assistance of Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, who invaded the kingdoms of Israel and Syria, and slew Rezin; but he was more in danger than ever from his too powerful ally; to purchase whose forbearance, as he had before bought his assistance, he was forced to strip himself and his people of all the wealth he could possibly raise from his own treasury, from the temple, and from the country. About the time of the siege of Jerusalem the Syrians took Elath, which was never after recovered. The Edomites likewise, taking advantage of the distress of Ahaz, ravaged Judea, and carried away many captives. The Philistines recovered what they had before lost; and took many places in Judea, and maintained themselves there. Idolatry was established by the command of the king in Jerusalem, and throughout Judea; and the service of the temple was either intermitted, or converted into an idolatrous worship.
Hezekiah, his son, on his accession to the throne, immediately set about the restoration of the legal worship of God, both in Jerusalem and through Judea. He cleansed and repaired the temple, and held a solemn passover. He improved the city, repaired the fortification, erected magazines of all sorts, and built a new aqueduct. In the fourth year of his reign Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, invaded the kingdom of Israel, took Samaria, and carried away the Israelites into captivity, and replaced them by different people sent from his own country; and this was the final destruction of that kingdom, in the sixth year of the reign of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was not deterred by this alarming example from refusing to pay the tribute to the king of Assyria, which had been imposed on Ahaz: this brought on the invasion of Sennacherib in the fourteenth year of his reign, an account of which is inserted among the prophecies of Isaiah. After a great and miraculous deliverance from so powerful an enemy, Hezekiah continued his reign in peace. He prospered in all his works, and left his kingdom in a flourishing state to his son Manasseh - a son in every respect unworthy of such a father. See Lowth.
4And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.
They shall spring up as among the grass "They shall spring up as the grass among the waters" - בבין חציר bebeyn chatsir, "They shall spring up to the midst of, or rather, in among, the grass. "This cannot be right: eleven MSS., and thirteen editions, have כבין kebeyn, or כבן keben. Twenty-four MSS. read it without the י yod, בבן beben, in the son of the grass; and so reads the Chaldee; בבן beben, in the son of the grass.
Twenty-four MSS. of Dr. Kennicott's, thirty-three of De Rossi's, and one of my own, with six editions, have this reading. The Syriac, מבין mibbeyn. The true reading is in all probability כבין kebeyn; and the word מים mayim, which should have followed it, is lost out of the text: but it is happily supplied by the Septuagint, ὡς ανα μεσον ὑδατος, as among the water "In every place where there is water, there is always grass; for water makes every thing grow in the east." Sir John Chardin's note on 1 Kings 17:5. Harmer's Observations 1:64.
5One shall say, I am the LORD'S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.
Shall call himself "Shall be called" - Passive, יקרא yikkare; κληθησεται, Symmachus.
Another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord "This shall inscribe his hand to Jehovah" - Και ἑτερος επιγραψει χειρι (χειρα, Ag., Sym.) αυτου, Του Θεου ειμι· "And another shall write upon his hand, I belong to God." - Sept. They seem to have read here, as before, ליהוה אני laihovah ani, I belong to Jehovah. But the repetition of the same phrase without any variation is not elegant. However, they seem to have understood it rightly, as an allusion to the marks, which were made by punctures rendered indelible, by fire or by staining, upon the hand or some other part of the body, signifying the state or character of the person, and to whom he belonged. The slave was marked with the name of his master, the soldier, of his commander; the idolater, with the name or ensign of his god: Στιγματα επιγραφομενα δια των στρατευομενων εν ταις χερσιν· "Punctural inscriptions made by the soldiers on their hands." Aetius apud Turnebum Advers. Isaiah 24:12. Victuris in cute punctis milites scripti et matriculis inserti jurare solent. "The soldiers having indelible inscriptions on their skin, and inserted in the muster-rolls, are accustomed to make oath." Vigetius, Isaiah 2:6. And the Christians seem to have imitated this practice, by what Procopius says on this place of Isaiah: Το δε ΤΗ ΧΕΙΡΙ, δια το στιζειν ισως πολλους επι καρπων, η βραχιονων, η του σταυρου σημειον, η την Χριστου προσηγοριαν. "Because many marked their wrists, or their arms, with the sign of the cross, or with the name of Christ." See Revelation 20:4; Spencer, De Leg. Hebr. lib. ii., cap. 20.
6Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
7And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.
Let them show unto them "Let them declare unto us" - For למו lamo, unto them, the Chaldee reads לנו lanu, unto us The Septuagint read לכם lachem, unto you; which is preferable to the reading of the text. But למו lamo, and לנו lanu, are frequently mistaken one for the other, see Isaiah 10:29; Psalm 80:7; Psalm 64:6.
8Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.
Fear ye not - תרהו - to tirehu never occurs. Perhaps it should be תיראו tireu, fear ye. Two MSS. read תירהו tirehu, and one of mine תהרו taharu.
9They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.
That they may be ashamed. Who hath formed a god "That every one may be ashamed, that he hath formed a god" - The Bodleian MS., one of the first extant for its antiquity and authority, instead of מי mi, at the beginning of the tenth verse, has כי ki, which greatly clears up the construction of a very obscure passage. Doederlein approves of this reading. The Septuagint likewise closely connect in construction the end of Isaiah 44:9 with the beginning of Isaiah 44:10; and wholly omit the interrogative מי mi, which embarrasses the sentence: Αισχυνθησονται οἱ πλασσοντες Θεον, και γλυφοντες παντες ανωφελη· "But they shall be confounded that make a god; and they who engrave unprofitable things;" agreeably to the reading of the MS. above mentioned.
10Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
11Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.
His fellows - חבריו chaberaiv: but עבדיו abadaiv, his servants or worshippers, is the reading of one of De Rossi's MSS., and of the Chaldee.
And the workmen, they are of men "Even the workmen themselves shall blush" - I do not know that any one has ever yet interpreted these words to any tolerably good sense: וחרשים המה מאדם vecharashim hemmah meadam. The Vulgate and our translators, have rendered them very fairly, as they are written and pointed in the text: Fabri enim sunt ex hominibus. "And the workmen they are of men." Out of which the commentators have not been able to extract any thing worthy of the prophet. I have given another explanation of the place; agreeable enough to the context, if it can be deduced from the words themselves. I presume that אדם adam, rubuit, may signify erubuit, to be red through shame, as well as from any other cause; though I cannot produce any example of it in that particular sense; and the word in the text I would point מאדם meoddam; or if any one should object to the irregularity of the number, I would read מאדמים meoddamim. But I rather think that the irregularity of the construction has been the cause of the obscurity, and has given occasion to the mistaken punctuation. The singular is sometimes put for the plural. See Psalm 68:31; and the participle for the future tense, see Isaiah 40:11. - L.
12The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.
The smith with the tongs, etc. "The smith cutteth off a portion of iron" - מעצד meatstsed, Participium Pihel of עצד atsad, to cut; still used in that sense in the Arabic. See Simonis Lex. Hebrews The Septuagint and Syriac take the word in this form: but they render it sharpeneth the iron. See Castell. Lex. in voce.
The sacred writers are generally large and eloquent upon the subject of idolatry; they treat it with great severity, and set forth the absurdity of it in the strongest light. But this passage of Isaiah, Isaiah 44:12-20, far exceeds any thing that ever was written upon the subject, in force of argument, energy of expression, and elegance of composition. One or two of the apocryphal writers have attempted to imitate the prophet, but with very ill success; Wisd. 13:11-19; 15:7, etc.; Baruch 6, NAB (editor's note: some translations treat this as Letter to Jeremiah), especially the latter, who, injudiciously dilating his matter, and introducing a number of minute circumstances, has very much weakened the force and effect of his invective. On the contrary a heathen author, in the ludicrous way, has, in a line or two, given idolatry one of the severest strokes it ever received: -
Olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum,
Cum faber incertus, scamnum faceretne
Priapum, Maluit esse Deum. Deus inde ego.
Horat. Satyr, lib. 1. sat. viii.
"Formerly I was the stump of a fig tree, a useless log; when the carpenter, after hesitating whether to make me a god or a stool, at last determined to make me a god. Thus I became a god!"
From the tenth to the seventeenth verse, a most beautiful strain of irony is carried on against idolatry. And we may naturally think that every idolater, who either read or heard it, must have been for ever ashamed of his own devices. - L.
13The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.
14He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.
He heweth him down "He heweth down" - For לכרת lichroth, the Septuagint and Vulgate read כרת carath or יכרת yichroth.
15Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
16He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:
With part "And with part" - Twenty-three MSS., the Septuagint, and Vulgate add the conjunction ו vau, and ועל veal.
17And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.
He falleth down unto it - There were four forms of adoration used among the Hebrews:
1. השתחוה Hishtachavah, The prostration of the whole body.
2. קדד Kadad, The bowing of the head.
3. כרע Cara, The bending of the upper part of the body down to the knees.
4. ברך Barach, Bowing the knee, or kneeling. See on Isaiah 49:23 (note).
18They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
He hath shut their eyes "Their eyes are closed up" - The Septuagint, Chaldee, and Vulyate, for טח tach, read טחו tachu. See note on Isaiah 6:10.
19And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?
20He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
He feedeth on ashes - He feedeth on that which affordeth no nourishment; a proverbial expression for using ineffectual means, and bestowing labor to no purpose. In the same sense Hosea says, "Ephraim feedeth on wind." Hosea 12:1.
21Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.
22I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins "I have made thy transgressions vanish away like a cloud, and thy sins like a vapor" - Longinus admired the sublimity of the sentiment, as well as the harmony of the numbers, in the following sentence of Demosthenes: Τουτο το ψηφισμα τον τοτε τῃ πολει τερισταντα κινδυνον παρελθειν εποιησεν ὡσπερ νεφος. "This decree made the danger then hanging over the city pass away like a cloud." Probably Isaiah alludes here to the smoke rising up from the sin-offering, dispersed speedily by the wind. and rendered invisible. He who offered his sacriflce aright was as sure that the sin for which he offered it was blotted out, as that the smoke of the sacrifice was dispersed by the wind, and was no longer discernible.
23Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
24Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;
By myself - Thirteen MSS., six ancient, confirm the reading of the Keri, מאתי meittai.
25That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;
26That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:
27That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:
That saith to the deep, Be dry "Who saith to the deep, Be thou wasted" - Cyrus took Babylon by laying the bed of the Euphrates dry, and leading his army into the city by night through the empty channel of the river. This remarkable circumstance, in which the event so exactly corresponded with the prophecy, was also noted by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 50:38; Jeremiah 51:36.
"A drought shall be upon her waters,
and they shall be dried up: -
I will lay her sea dry
And I will scorch up her springs."
It is proper here to give some account of the means and method lay which the stratagem of Cyrus was effected.
The Euphrates in the middle of the summer, from the melting of the snows on the mountains of Armenia, like the Nile, overflows the country. In order to diminish the inundation, and to carry off the waters, two canals were made by Nebuchadnezzar a hundred miles above the city; the first on the eastern side called Naharmalca, or the Royal River, by which the Euphrates was let into the Tigris; the other on the western side, called Pallacopas, or Naharaga, (נהר אגם nahar agam, The river of the pool), by which the redundant waters were carried into a vast lake, forty miles square, contrived, not only to lessen the inundation, but for a reservoir, with sluices, to water the barren country on the Arabian side. Cyrus, by turning the whole river into the lake by the Pallacopas, laid the channel, where it ran through the city, almost dry; so that his army entered it, both above and below, by the bed of the river, the water not reaching above the middle of the thigh. By the great quantity-of water let into the lake, the sluices and dams were destroyed; and being never repaired afterwards, the waters spread over the whole country below, and reduced it to a morass, in which the river is lost. Ingens modo et navigabilis, inde tenuis rivus, despectus emoritur; et nusquam manifesto exitit effluit, ut alii omnes, sed deficit. "And thus a navigable river has been totally lost, it having no exit from this morass. No wonder then that the geographical face of this country is completely changed;" Mela Jeremiah 3:8; Herod. 1:186, 190; Xenophon, Cyrop. vii.; Arrian vii.
28That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd "Who saith to Cyrus, Thou art my shepherd" - Pastor meus es; Vulg. The true reading seems to be רעי אתה roi attah; the word אתה attah, has probably been dropped out of the text. The same word is lost out of the text, Psalm 119:57. It is supplied in the Septuagint by the word ει, thou art.
Saying to Jerusalem - For ולאמר velemor, the Septuagint and Vulgate read האומר haomer.
And to the temple - ולהיכל uleheychal, as לירושלם lirushalayim, before; the preposition is necessary, and the Vulgate seems to read so. - Houbigant.
That saith of Cyrus, He is, or thou art, my shepherd - Saying to Jerusalem, "Thou shalt be built;" and to the Temple, "Thy foundation shall be laid." - There is a remarkable beauty and propriety in this verse.
1. Cyrus is called God's shepherd. Shepherd was an epithet which Cyrus took to himself; and what he gave to all good kings.
2. This Cyrus should say to the temple: "Thy foundation shall be laid." Not - thou shalt be built. The fact is, only the foundation was laid in the days of Cyrus, the Ammonites having prevented the building; nor was it resumed till the second year of Darius, one of his successors. There is often a precision in the expressions of the prophets which is as honorable to truth, as it is unnoticed by careless readers.