The desolation of the land. (1-12) A few shall be preserved. (13-15) God's kingdom advanced by his judgments. (16-23)
Verses 1-12 All whose treasures and happiness are laid up on earth, will soon be brought to want and misery. It is good to apply to ourselves what the Scripture says of the vanity and vexation of spirit which attend all things here below. Sin has turned the earth upside down; the earth is become quite different to man, from what it was when God first made it to be his habitation. It is, at the best, like a flower, which withers in the hands of those that please themselves with it, and lay it in their bosoms. The world we live in is a world of disappointment, a vale of tears; the children of men in it are but of few days, and full of trouble, See the power of God's curse, how it makes all empty, and lays waste all ranks and conditions. Sin brings these calamities upon the earth; it is polluted by the sins of men, therefore it is made desolate by God's judgments. Carnal joy will soon be at end, and the end of it is heaviness. God has many ways to imbitter wine and strong drink to those who love them; distemper of body, anguish of mind, and the ruin of the estate, will make strong drink bitter, and the delights of sense tasteless. Let men learn to mourn for sin, and rejoice in God; then no man, no event, can take their joy from them.
Verses 13-15 There shall be a remnant preserved from the general ruin, and it shall be a devout and pious remnant. These few are dispersed; like the gleanings of the olive tree, hid under the leaves. The Lord knows those that are his; the world does not. When the mirth of carnal worldlings ceases, the joy of the saints is as lively as ever, because the covenant of grace, the fountain of their comforts, and the foundation of their hopes, never fails. Those who rejoice in the Lord can rejoice in tribulation, and by faith may triumph when all about them are in tears. They encourage their fellow-sufferers to do likewise, even those who are in the furnace of affliction. Or, in the valleys, low, dark, miry places. In every fire, even the hottest, in every place, even the remotest, let us keep up our good thoughts of God. If none of these trials move us, then we glorify the Lord in the fires.
Verses 16-23 Believers may be driven into the uttermost parts of the earth; but they are singing, not sighing. Here is terror to sinners; the prophet laments the miseries he saw breaking in like a torrent; and the small number of believers. He foresees that sin would abound. The meaning is plain, that evil pursues sinners. Unsteady, uncertain are all these things. Worldly men think to dwell in the earth as in a palace, as in a castle; but it shall be removed like a cottage, like a lodge put up for the night. It shall fall and not rise again; but there shall be new heavens and a new earth, in which shall dwell nothing but righteousness. Sin is a burden to the whole creation; it is a heavy burden, under which it groans now, and will sink at last. The high ones, that are puffed up with their grandeur, that think themselves out of the reach of danger, God will visit for their pride and cruelty. Let us judge nothing before the time, though some shall be visited. None in this world should be secure, though their condition be ever so prosperous; nor need any despair, though their condition be ever so deplorable. God will be glorified in all this. But the mystery of Providence is not yet finished. The ruin of the Redeemer's enemies must make way for his kingdom, and then the Sun of Righteousness will appear in full glory. Happy are those who take warning by the sentence against others; every impenitent sinner will sink under his transgression, and rise no more, while believers enjoy everlasting bliss.
Isaiah 24:1-23 . THE LAST TIMES OF THE WORLD IN GENERAL, AND OF JUDAH AND THE CHURCH IN PARTICULAR.
The four chapters (the twenty-fourth through the twenty-seventh) form one continuous poetical prophecy: descriptive of the dispersion and successive calamities of the Jews ( Isaiah 24:1-12 ); the preaching of the Gospel by the first Hebrew converts throughout the world ( Isaiah 24:13-16 ); the judgments on the adversaries of the Church and its final triumph ( Isaiah 24:16-23 ); thanksgiving for the overthrow of the apostate faction ( Isaiah 25:1-12 ), and establishment of the righteous in lasting peace ( Isaiah 26:1-21 ); judgment on leviathan and entire purgation of the Church ( Isaiah 27:1-13 ). Having treated of the several nations in particular--Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Edom, and Tyre (the miniature representative of all, as all kingdoms flocked into it)--he passes to the last times of the world at large and of Judah the representative and future head of the churches.
1. the earth--rather, "the land" of Judah (so in Isaiah 24:3 Isaiah 24:5 Isaiah 24:6 , Joel 1:2 ). The desolation under Nebuchadnezzar prefigured that under Titus.
2. as with the people, so with the priest--All alike shall share the same calamity: no favored class shall escape (compare Ezekiel 7:12 Ezekiel 7:13 , Hosea 4:9 , Revelation 6:15 ).
4. world--the kingdom of Israel; as in Isaiah 13:11 , Babylon.
haughty--literally, "the height" of the people: abstract for concrete, that is, the high people; even the nobles share the general distress.
5. earth--rather, "the land."
defiled under . . . inhabitants--namely, with innocent blood ( Genesis 4:11 , Numbers 35:33 , Psalms 106:38 ).
laws . . . ordinance . . . everlasting covenant--The moral laws, positive statutes, and national covenant designed to be for ever between God and them.
6. earth--the land.
burned--namely, with the consuming wrath of heaven: either internally, as in Job 30:30 [ROSENMULLER]; or externally, the prophet has before his eyes the people being consumed with the withering dryness of their doomed land (so Joel 1:10 Joel 1:12 ), [MAURER].
7. mourneth--because there are none to drink it [BARNES]. Rather, "is become vapid" [HORSLEY].
languisheth--because there are none to cultivate it now.
8. ( Revelation 18:22 ).
9. with a song--the usual accompaniment of feasts. "Date wine" [HORSLEY].
bitter--in consequence of the national calamities.
10. city of confusion--rather, "desolation." What Jerusalem would be; by anticipation it is called so. HORSLEY translates, "The city is broken down; it is a ruin."
shut up--through fear; or rather, "choked up by ruins."
11. crying for wine--to drown their sorrows in drink ( Isaiah 16:9 ); Joel 1:5 , written about the same time, resembles this.
12. with destruction--rather "crash" [GESENIUS]. "With a great tumult the gate is battered down" [HORSLEY].
13. the land--Judea. Put the comma after "land," not after "people." "There shall be among the people (a remnant left), as the shaking (the after-picking) of an olive tree"; as in gathering olives, a few remain on the highest boughs ( Isaiah 17:5 Isaiah 17:6 ).
14. They--those who are left: the remnant.
sing for the majesty of the Lord--sing a thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord, who has so mercifully preserved them.
from the sea--from the distant lands beyond the sea, whither they have escaped.
15. in the fires--VITRINGA translates, "in the caves." Could it mean the fires of affliction ( 1 Peter 1:7 )? They were exiles at the time. The fires only loose the carnal bonds off the soul, without injuring a hair, as in the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. LOWTH reads, in the islands ( Ezekiel 26:18 ). Rather translate for "fires," "in the regions of morning light," that is, the east, in antithesis to the "isles of the sea," that is, the west [MAURER]. Wheresoever ye be scattered, east or west, still glorify the Lord ( Malachi 1:11 ).
16. Songs to God come in together to Palestine from distant lands, as a grand chorus.
glory to the righteous--the burden of the songs ( Isaiah 26:2 Isaiah 26:7 ). Amidst exile, the loss of their temple, and all that is dear to man, their confidence in God is unshaken. These songs recall the joy of other times and draw from Jerusalem in her present calamities, the cry, "My leanness." HORSLEY translates, "glory to the Just One"; then My leanness expresses his sense of man's corruption, which led the Jews, "the treacherous dealers" ( Jeremiah 5:11 ), to crucify the Just One; and his deficiency of righteousness which made him need to be clothed with the righteousness of the Just One ( Psalms 106:15 ).
treacherous dealers--the foreign nations that oppress Jerusalem, and overcome it by stratagem (so in Isaiah 21:2 ) [BARNES].
17. This verse explains the wretchedness spoken of in Isaiah 24:16 . Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 48:43 Jeremiah 48:44 ) uses the same words. They are proverbial Isaiah 24:18 expressing that the inhabitants were nowhere safe; if they escaped one danger, they fell into another, and worse, on the opposite side ( Amos 5:19 ). "Fear" is the term applied to the cords with feathers of all colors which, when fluttered in the air, scare beasts into the pitfall, or birds into the snare. HORSLEY makes the connection. Indignant at the treatment which the Just One received, the prophet threatens the guilty land with instant vengeance.
18. noise of . . . fear--the shout designed to rouse the game and drive it into the pitfall.
windows . . . open--taken from the account of the deluge ( Genesis 7:11 ); the flood-gates. So the final judgments of fire on the apostate world are compared to the deluge ( 2 Peter 3:5-7 ).
19. earth--the land: image from an earthquake. a hanging couch,
suspended from the trees by cords, such as NIEBUHR describes the Arab keepers of lands as having, to enable them to keep watch, and at the same time to be secure from wild beasts. Translate, "Shall wave to and fro like a hammock" swung about by the wind. heavy upon it
--like an overwhelming burden. not rise again
--not meaning, that it never
would rise ( Isaiah 24:23
), but in those convulsions
it would not rise, it would surely fall.
21. host of . . . high ones--the heavenly host, that is, either the visible host of heaven (the present economy of nature, affected by the sun, moon, and stars, the objects of idolatry, being abolished, Isaiah 65:17 , 60:19 , simultaneously with the corrupt polity of men); or rather, "the invisible rulers of the darkness of this world," as the antithesis to "kings of the earth" shows. Angels, moreover, preside, as it were, over kingdoms of the world ( Daniel 10:13 Daniel 10:20 Daniel 10:21 ).
22. in the pit--rather, "for the pit" [HORSLEY]. "In the dungeon" [MAURER]. Image from captives thrust together into a dungeon.
prison--that is, as in a prison. This sheds light on the disputed passage, 1 Peter 3:19 , where also the prison is figurative: The "shutting up" of the Jews in Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, and again under Titus, was to be followed by a visitation of mercy "after many days"--seventy years in the case of the former--the time is not yet elapsed in the case of the latter. HORSLEY takes "visited" in a bad sense, namely, in wrath, as in Isaiah 26:14 ; compare Isaiah 29:6 ; the punishment being the heavier in the fact of the delay. Probably a double visitation is intended, deliverance to the elect, wrath to hardened unbelievers; as Isaiah 24:23 plainly contemplates judgments on proud sinners, symbolized by the "sun" and "moon."
23. ( Jeremiah 3:17 ). Still future: of which Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem amidst hosannas was a pledge.
his ancients--the elders of His people; or in general, His ancient people, the Jews. After the overthrow of the world kingdoms. Jehovah's shall be set up with a splendor exceeding the light of the sun and moon under the previous order of things ( Isaiah 60:19 Isaiah 60:20 ).