Judgements on Jerusalem and on its enemies. (1-8) The senselessness and hypocrisy of the Jews. (9-16) The conversion of the Gentiles, and future blessings for the Jews. (17-24)
Verses 1-8 Ariel may signify the altar of burnt-offerings. Let Jerusalem know that outward religious services will not make men free from judgements. Hypocrites never can please God, nor make their peace with him. God had often and long, by a host of angels, encamped round about Jerusalem for protection and deliverance; but now he fought against it. Proud looks and proud language shall be brought down by humbling providences. The destruction of Jerusalem's enemies is foretold. The army of Sennacherib went as a dream; and thus the multitudes, that through successive ages fight against God's altar and worship, shall fall. Speedily will sinners awake from their soothing dreams in the pains of hell.
Verses 9-16 The security of sinners in sinful ways, is cause for lamentation and wonder. The learned men, through prejudice, said that the Divine prophecies were obscure; and the poor urged their want of learning. The Bible is a sealed book to every man, learned or unlearned, till he begins to study it with a simple heart and a teachable spirit, that he may thence learn the truth and the will of God. To worship God, is to approach him. And if the heart be full of his love and fear, out of the abundance of it the mouth will speak; but there are many whose religion is lip-labour only. When they pretend to be speaking to God, they are thinking of a thousand foolish things. They worship the God of Israel according to their own devices. Numbers are only formal in worship. And their religion is only to comply with custom, and to serve their own interest. But the wanderings of mind, and defects in devotion, which are the believer's burden, are very different from the withdrawing of the heart from God, so severely blamed. And those who make religion no more than a pretence, to serve a turn, deceive themselves. And as those that quarrel with God, so those that think to conceal themselves from him, in effect charge him with folly. But all their perverse conduct shall be entirely done away.
Verses 17-24 The wonderful change here foretold, may refer to the affairs of Judah, though it looks further. When a great harvest of souls was gathered to Christ from among the Gentiles, then the wilderness was turned into a fruitful field; and the Jewish church, that had long been a fruitful field, became as a deserted forest. Those who, when in trouble, can truly rejoice in God, shall soon have cause greatly to rejoice in him. The grace of meekness contributes to the increase of our holy joy. The enemies who were powerful shall become mean and weak. To complete the repose of God's people, the scorners at home shall be cut off by judgements. All are apt to speak unadvisedly, and to mistake what they hear, but it is very unfair to make a man an offender for a word. They did all they could to bring those into trouble who told them of their faults. But He that redeemed Abraham out of his snares and troubles, will redeem those who are, by faith, his true seed, out of theirs. It will be the greatest comfort to godly parents to see their children renewed creatures, the work of God's grace. May those who now err in spirit, and murmur against the truth, come to understanding, and learn true doctrine. The Spirit of truth shall set right their mistakes, and lead them into all truth. This should encourage us to pray for those that have erred, and are deceived. All who murmured at the truths of God, as hard sayings, shall learn and be aware what God designed in all. See the change religion produces in the hearts of men, and the peace and pleasure of a humble and devout spirit.
Isaiah 29:1-24 . COMING INVASION OF JERUSALEM: ITS FAILURE: UNBELIEF OF THE JEWS.
This chapter opens the series of prophecies as to the invasion of Judea under Sennacherib, and its deliverance.
1. Ariel--Jerusalem; Ariel means "Lion of God," that is, city rendered by God invincible: the lion is emblem of a mighty hero ( 2 Samuel 23:20 ). Otherwise "Hearth of God," that is, place where the altar-fire continually burns to God ( Isaiah 31:9 , Ezekiel 43:15 Ezekiel 43:16 ).
add . . . year to year--ironically; suffer one year after another to glide on in the round of formal, heartless "sacrifices." Rather, "add yet another year" to the one just closed [MAURER]. Let a year elapse and a little more ( Isaiah 32:10 , Margin).
let . . . kill sacrifices--rather, "let the beasts (of another year) go round" [MAURER]; that is, after the completion of a year "I will distress Ariel."
2. Yet--rather, "Then."
heaviness . . . sorrow--rather, preserving the Hebrew paronomasia, "groaning" and "moaning."
as Ariel--either, "the city shall be as a lion of God," that is, it shall emerge from its dangers unvanquished; or "it shall be as the altar of burnt offering," consuming with fire the besiegers ( Isaiah 29:6 , Isaiah 30:30 , 31:9 , Leviticus 10:2 ); or best, as Isaiah 29:3 continues the threat, and the promise of deliverance does not come till Isaiah 29:4 , "it shall be like a hearth of burning," that is, a scene of devastation by fire [G. V. SMITH]. The prophecy, probably, contemplates ultimately, besides the affliction and deliverance in Sennacherib's time, the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, the dispersion of the Jews, their restoration, the destruction of the enemies that besiege the city ( Zechariah 14:2 ), and the final glory of Israel ( Isaiah 29:17-24 ).
3. I--Jehovah, acting through the Assyrian, &c., His instruments ( Isaiah 10:5 ).
mount--an artificial mound formed to out-top high walls ( Isaiah 37:33 ); else a station, namely, of warriors, for the siege.
round about--not fully realized under Sennacherib, but in the Roman siege ( Luke 19:43 , 21:20 ).
forts--siege-towers ( Deuteronomy 20:20 ).
4. Jerusalem shall be as a captive, humbled to the dust. Her voice shall come from the earth as that of the spirit charmers or necromancers ( Isaiah 8:19 ), faint and shrill, as the voice of the dead was supposed to be. Ventriloquism was doubtless the trick caused to make the voice appear to come from the earth ( Isaiah 19:3 ). An appropriate retribution that Jerusalem, which consulted necromancers, should be made like them!
5. Moreover--rather, "Yet"; yet in this extremity help shall come, and the enemy be scattered.
strangers--foreign enemies, invaders ( Isaiah 25:2 ).
it shall be--namely, the destruction of the enemy.
at an instant--in a moment ( Isaiah 30:23 ).
6. Thou--the Assyrian army.
thunder, &c.--not literally, in the case of the Assyrians ( Isaiah 37:36 ); but figuratively for an awful judgment ( Isaiah 30:30 , 28:17 ). The ulterior fulfilment, in the case of the Jews' foes in the last days, may be more literal (see as to "earthquake," Zechariah 14:4 ).
8. Their disappointment in the very height of their confident expectation of taking Jerusalem shall be as great as that of the hungry man who in a dream fancies he eats, but awakes to hunger still ( Psalms 73:20 ); their dream shall be dissipated on the fatal morning ( Isaiah 37:36 ).
soul--simply his appetite: he is still thirsty.
9. Stay--rather, "Be astounded"; expressing the stupid and amazed incredulity with which the Jews received Isaiah's announcement.
wonder--The second imperative, as often ( Isaiah 8:9 ), is a threat; the first is a simple declaration of a fact, "Be astounded, since you choose to be so, at the prophecy, soon you will be amazed at the sight of the actual event" [MAURER].
cry . . . out . . . cry--rather, "Be ye blinded (since you choose to be so, though the light shines all round you), and soon ye shall be blinded" in good earnest to your sorrow [MAURER], ( Isaiah 6:9 Isaiah 6:10 ).
not with wine--but with spiritual paralysis ( Isaiah 51:17 Isaiah 51:21 ).
ye . . . they--The change from speaking to, to speaking of them, intimates that the prophet turns away from them to a greater distance, because of their stupid unbelief.
10. Jehovah gives them up judicially to their own hardness of heart (compare Zechariah 14:13 ). Quoted by Paul, with variations from the Septuagint, Romans 11:8 . See Isaiah 6:10 , Psalms 69:23 .
eyes; the prophets, &c.--rather, "hath closed your eyes, the prophets; and your heads (Margin; see also Isaiah 3:2 ), the seers, He hath covered." The Orientals cover the head to sleep; thus "covered" is parallel to "closed your eyes" ( Judges 4:19 ). Covering the face was also preparatory to execution ( Esther 7:8 ). This cannot apply to the time when Isaiah himself prophesied, but to subsequent times.
11. of all--rather, "the whole vision." "Vision" is the same here as "revelation," or "law"; in Isaiah 28:15 , the same Hebrew word is translated, "covenant" [MAURER].
sealed--( Isaiah 8:16 ), God seals up the truth so that even the learned, because they lack believing docility, cannot discern it ( Matthew 13:10-17 , 11:25 ). Prophecy remained comparatively a sealed volume ( Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:9 ), until Jesus, who "alone is worthy," "opened the seals" ( Revelation 5:1-5 Revelation 5:9 , 6:1 ).
12. The unlearned succeed no better than the learned, not from want of human learning, as they fancy, but from not having the teaching of God ( Isaiah 54:13 Jeremiah 31:34 John 6:45 1 Corinthians 2:7-10 1 John 2:20 ).
13. precept of men--instead of the precepts of God, given by His prophets; also worship external, and by rule, not heartfelt as God requires ( John 4:24 ). Compare Christ's quotation of this verse from the Septuagint.
14. ( Habakkuk 1:5 , Acts 13:41 ). The "marvellous work" is one of unparalleled vengeance on the hypocrites: compare "strange work," Isaiah 28:21 . The judgment, too, will visit the wise in that respect in which they most pride themselves; their wisdom shall be hid, that is, shall no longer appear, so as to help the nation in its distress (compare 1 Corinthians 1:19 ).
15. seek deep to hide--rather, "That seek to hide deeply," &c. (compare Isaiah 30:1 Isaiah 30:2 ). The reference is to the secret plan which many of the Jewish nobles had of seeking Egyptian aid against Assyria, contrary to the advice of Isaiah. At the same time the hypocrite in general is described, who, under a plausible exterior, tries to hide his real character, not only from men, but even from God.
16. Rather, "Ah! your perverseness! just as if the potter should be esteemed as the clay!" [MAURER]. Or, "Ye invert (turn upside down) the order of things, putting yourselves instead of God," and vice versa, just as if the potter should be esteemed as the clay [HORSLEY], ( Isaiah 45:9 , 64:8 ).
17. turned--as contrasted with your "turnings of things upside down" ( Isaiah 29:16 ), there shall be other and better turnings or revolutions; the outpouring of the Spirit in the latter days ( Isaiah 32:15 ); first on the Jews; which shall be followed by their ( Joel 2:28 ).
fruitful field--literally, "a Carmel" moral change in the Jewish nation shall be as great as if the wooded Lebanon were to become a fruitful field, and vice versa. Compare Matthew 11:12 , Greek: "the kingdom of heaven forces itself," as it were, on man's acceptance; instead of men having to seek Messiah, as they had John, in a desert, He presents Himself before them with loving invitations; thus men's hearts, once a moral desert, are reclaimed so as to bear fruits of righteousness: vice versa, the ungodly who seemed prosperous, both in the moral and literal sense, shall be exhibited in their real barrenness.
18. deaf . . . blind--(Compare Matthew 11:5 ). The spiritually blind, &c., are chiefly meant; "the book," as Revelation is called pre-eminently, shall be no longer "sealed," as is described ( Isaiah 29:11 ), but the most unintelligent shall hear and see ( Isaiah 35:5 ).
19. meek--rather, the afflicted godly: the idea is, virtuous suffering ( Isaiah 61:1 , Psalms 25:9 , 37:11 ) [BARNES].
poor among men--that is, the poorest of men, namely, the pious poor.
rejoice--when they see their oppressors punished ( Isaiah 29:20 Isaiah 29:21 ), and Jehovah exhibited as their protector and rewarder ( Isaiah 29:22-24 , Isaiah 41:17 , 2:5 ).
20. terrible--namely, the persecutors among the Jewish nobles.
scorner--( Isaiah 28:14 Isaiah 28:22 ).
watch for--not only commit iniquity, but watch for opportunities of committing it, and make it their whole study (see Micah 2:1 , Matthew 26:59 , 27:1 ).
21. Rather, "Who make a man guilty in his cause" [GESENIUS], that is, unjustly condemn him. "A man" is in the Hebrew a poor man, upon whom such unjust condemnations might be practiced with more impunity than on the rich; compare Isaiah 29:19 , "the meek . . . the poor."
him that reproveth--rather, "pleadeth"; one who has a suit at issue.
gate--the place of concourse in a city, where courts of justice were held ( Ruth 4:11 , Proverbs 31:23 , Amos 5:10 Amos 5:12 ).
just--one who has a just cause; or, Jesus Christ, "the Just One" [HORSLEY].
for a thing of naught--rather, "through falsehood," "by a decision that is null in justice" [BARNES]. Compare as to Christ, Proverbs 28:21 , Matthew 26:15 , Acts 3:13 Acts 3:14 , 8:33 .
22. Join "saith . . . concerning the house of Jacob."
redeemed--out of Ur, a land of idolaters ( Joshua 24:3 ).
not now--After the moral revolution described ( Isaiah 29:17 ), the children of Jacob shall no longer give cause to their forefathers to blush for them.
wax pale--with shame and disappointment at the wicked degeneracy of his posterity, and fear as to their punishment.
23. But--rather, "For."
work of mine hands--spiritually, as well as physically ( Isaiah 19:25 , 60:21 , Ephesians 2:10 ). By Jehovah's agency Israel shall be cleansed of its corruptions, and shall consist wholly of pious men ( Isaiah 54:13 Isaiah 54:14 , 2:1 , 60:21 ).
midst of him--that is, his land. Or else "His children" are the Gentiles adopted among the Israelites, his lineal descendants ( Romans 9:26 , Ephesians 3:6 ) [HORSLEY].
24. They . . . that erred--( Isaiah 28:7 ).
learn doctrine--rather, "shall receive discipline" or "instruction." "Murmuring" was the characteristic of Israel's rebellion against God ( Exodus 16:8 , Psalms 106:25 ). This shall be so no more. Chastisements, and, in HORSLEY'S view, the piety of the Gentiles provoking the Jews to holy jealousy ( Romans 11:11 Romans 11:14 ), shall then produce the desired effect.