The Jews reproved for seeking aid from Egypt. (1-7) Judgements in consequence of their contempt of God's word. (8-18) God's mercies to his church. (19-26) The ruin of the Assyrian army, and of all God's enemies. (27-33)
Verses 1-7 It was often the fault and folly of the Jews, that when troubled by their neighbours on one side, they sought for succour from others, instead of looking up to God. Nor can we avoid the dreadful consequences of adding sin to sin, but by making the righteousness of Christ our refuge, and seeking for the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Men have always been prone to lean to their own understandings, but this will end in their shame and misery. They would not trust in God. They took much pains to gain the Egyptians. The riches so spent turned to a bad account. See what dangers men run into who forsake God to follow their carnal confidences. The Creator is the Rock of ages, the creature a broken reed; we cannot expect too little from man, or too much from God. Our strength is to sit still, in humble dependence upon God and his goodness, and quiet submission to his will.
Verses 8-18 The Jews were the only professing people God then had in the world, yet many among them were rebellious. They had the light, but they loved darkness rather. The prophets checked them in their sinful pursuits, so that they could not proceed without fear; this they took amiss. But faithful ministers will not be driven from seeking to awaken sinners. God is the Holy One of Israel, and so they shall find him. They did not like to hear of his holy commandments and his hatred of sin; they desired that they might no more be reminded of these things. But as they despised the word of God, their sins undermined their safety. Their state would be dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel. Let us return from our evil ways, and settle in the way of duty; that is the way to be saved. Would we be strengthened, it must be in quietness and in confidence, keeping peace in our own minds, and relying upon God. They think themselves wiser than God; but the project by which they thought to save themselves was their ruin. Only here and there one shall escape, as a warning to others. If men will not repent, turn to God, and seek happiness in his favour and service, their desires will but hasten their ruin. Those who make God alone their confidence, will have comfort. God ever waits to be gracious to all that come to him by faith in Christ, and happy are those who wait for him.
Verses 19-26 God's people will soon arrive at the Zion above, and then they will weep no more for ever. Even now they would have more comfort, as well as holiness, if they were more constant in prayer. A famine of bread is not so great a judgment as a famine of the word of God. There are right-hand and left-hand errors; the tempter is busy courting us into by-paths. It is happy if, by the counsels of a faithful minister or friend, or the checks of conscience, and the strivings of God the Spirit, we are set right when doubting, and prevented from going wrong. They shall be cured of their idolatry. To all true penitents sin becomes very hateful. This is shown daily in the conversion of souls, by the power of Divine grace, to the fear and love of God. Abundant means of grace, with the influences of the Holy Spirit, would be extended to places destitute of them. The effect of this should be comfort and joy to the people of God. Light, that is, knowledge, shall increase. This is the light which the gospel brought into the world, and which proclaims healing to the broken-hearted.
Verses 27-33 God curbs and restrains from doing mischief. With a word he guides his people into the right way, but with a bridle he turns his enemies upon their own ruin. Here, in threatening the ruin of Sennacherib's army, the prophet points at the final and everlasting destruction of all impenitent sinners. Tophet was a valley near Jerusalem, where fires were continually burning to destroy things that were hurtful and offensive, and there the idolatrous Jews caused their children to pass through the fire to Moloch. This denotes the certainty of the destruction, as an awful emblem of the place of torment in the other world. No oppressor shall escape the Divine wrath. Let sinners then flee to Christ, seeking to be reconciled to Him, that they may be safe and happy, when destruction from the Almighty shall sweep away all the workers of iniquity.
Isaiah 30:1-32 . THE THIRTIETH THROUGH THIRTY-SECOND CHAPTERS REFER PROBABLY TO THE SUMMER OF 714 B.C., AS THE TWENTY-NINTH CHAPTER TO THE PASSOVER OF THAT YEAR.
Jewish ambassadors were now on their way to Egypt to seek aid against Assyria ( Isaiah 30:2-6 Isaiah 30:15 , 31:1 ). Isaiah denounces this reliance on Egypt rather than on Jehovah. God had prohibited such alliances with heathen nations, and it was a leading part of Jewish polity that they should be a separate people ( Exodus 23:32 , Deuteronomy 7:2 ).
1. take counsel--rather, as Isaiah 30:4 Isaiah 30:6 imply, "execute counsels."
cover . . . covering--that is, wrap themselves in reliances disloyal towards Jehovah. "Cover" thus answers to "seek to hide deeply their counsel from the Lord" ( Isaiah 29:15 ). But the Hebrew is literally, "who pour out libations"; as it was by these that leagues were made ( Exodus 24:8 , Zechariah 9:11 ), translate, "who make a league."
not of--not suggested by My Spirit" ( Numbers 27:21 , Joshua 9:14 ).
that they may add--The consequence is here spoken of as their intention, so reckless were they of sinning: one sin entails the commission of another ( Deuteronomy 29:19 ).
2. walk--are now setting out, namely, their ambassadors ( Isaiah 30:4 ).
Pharaoh--the generic name of the kings of Egypt, as Cæsar was at Rome. The word in Egyptian means "king" [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 8.6,2]. Phra, "the sun," was the hieroglyphic symbol and title of the king.
shadow--image from shelter against heat: protection ( Psalms 121:5 Psalms 121:6 ).
3. shame--disappointment. Egypt, weakened by its internal dissensions, can give no solid help.
4. his--Judah's (compare Isaiah 9:21 ).
at Zoan--are already arrived there on their errand to Pharaoh (see Isaiah 19:11 ).
came to Hanes--are come there. West of the Nile, in central Egypt: Egyptian Hnes; the Greek Heracleopolis: perhaps the Anysis of HERODOTUS (2.137); according to GROTIUS, Tahpanhes contracted ( Jeremiah 43:7-9 ); the seat of a reigning prince at the time, as was Zoan, hence the Jewish ambassadors go to both.
5. ( Jeremiah 2:36 .)
6. burden--the prophecy as to, &c. [MAURER]; so the Septuagint, the fresh inscription here marks emphatically the prediction that follows. Or, rather, Isaiah sees in vision, the ambassador's beasts burdened with rich presents travelling southwards (namely, to Egypt, Daniel 11:5 Daniel 11:6 ), and exclaims, Oh, the burden of treasure on the beasts! &c. ( Hosea 8:9 , 12:1 ).
land of trouble--the desert between Palestine and Egypt, destitute of water and abounding in dangerous animals ( Deuteronomy 8:15 , Jeremiah 2:6 ).
flying serpent--( Isaiah 14:29 ), a species which springs like a dart from trees, on its prey.
will carry--rather, present, "carry," namely, as presents to Egypt ( 1 Kings 15:19 ).
young asses--rather, "full-grown asses" [MAURER].
7. "Egypt is vanity, and to no purpose will they help" [G. V. SMITH].
strength--Hebrew, Rabah, a designation for Egypt ( Isaiah 51:9 , Psalms 87:4 ), implying her haughty fierceness; translate, "Therefore I call her Arrogance that sitteth still." She who boasted of the help she would give, when it came to the test, sat still ( Isaiah 36:6 ). English Version agrees with Isaiah 30:15 , Isaiah 7:4 .
8. table--a tablet ( Habakkuk 2:2 ), which should be set in public, containing the prophecy in a briefer form, to be read by all.
a book--namely, a parchment roll, containing the prophecy in full, for the use of distant posterity. Its truth will be seen hereafter when
for ever and ever--rather read, "For a testimony for ever" [Chaldee, JEROME, LOWTH]: "testimony is often joined to the notion of perpetuity ( Deuteronomy 31:19 Deuteronomy 31:21 Deuteronomy 31:26 ).
9. lying--unfaithful to Jehovah, whose covenant they had taken on them as His adopted children ( Isaiah 59:13 , Proverbs 30:9 ).
10. ( Micah 2:6 Micah 2:11 , 3:5 ).
See not--as you now do, foretelling misfortune.
Prophesy not . . . right things--Not that they avowedly requested this, but their conduct virtually expressed it. No man, professedly, wished to be deceived; but many seek a kind of teaching which is deceit; and which, if they would examine, they might know to be such ( 1 Kings 22:13 ). The Jews desired success to be foretold as the issue of their league with Egypt, though ill had been announced by God's prophet as the result; this constituted the "deceits."
11. Depart from the true "way" (so in Acts 19:9 Acts 19:23 ) of religion.
cause . . . to cease--Let us hear no more of His name. God's holiness is what troubles sinners most.
12. Holy One--Isaiah so little yields to their wicked prejudices that he repeats the very name and truth which they disliked.
this word--Isaiah's exhortation to reliance on Jehovah.
oppression--whereby they levied the treasures to be sent to conciliate Egypt ( Isaiah 30:6 ).
perverseness--in relying on Egypt, rather than on Jehovah.
13. Image from a curve swelling out in a wall ( Psalms 62:3 ); when the former gives way, it causes the downfall of the whole wall; so their policy as to Egypt.
14. he--the enemy; or rather, God ( Psalms 2:9 , Jeremiah 19:11 ).
It--the Jewish state.
potter's vessel--earthen and fragile.
sherd--a fragment of the vessel large enough to take up a live coal, &c.
pit--cistern or pool. The swell of the wall is at first imperceptible and gradual, but at last it comes to the crisis; so the decay of the Jewish state.
15. returning and rest--turning back from your embassy to Egypt, and ceasing from warlike preparations.
quietness--answering to "wait for Him (God)" ( Isaiah 30:18 ).
16. flee--not as fugitives, but we will speed our course; namely, against the Assyrians, by the help of cavalry supplied by Egypt ( Isaiah 31:1 ). This was expressly against the Mosaic law ( Deuteronomy 17:16 ; Hosea 14:3 ).
shall . . . flee--literally, "before your enemies"; their sin and its punishment correspond.
17. One thousand--A thousand at once, or, "As one man" [MAURER].
rebuke--the battle cry.
shall ye--at the rebuke of five shall ye, namely, all (in contrast to the "one thousand") flee so utterly that even two shall not be left together, but each one shall be as solitary "as a signal staff" [G. V. SMITH], or "a banner on a hill" ( Isaiah 5:26 , 11:12 ). The signal staff was erected to rally a nation in war. The remnant of Jews left would be beacons to warn all men of the justice of God, and the truth of His threatenings. GESENIUS (from Leviticus 26:8 , Deuteronomy 32:30 ) arbitrarily inserts "ten thousand." "At the rebuke of five shall ten thousand of you flee."
18. therefore--on account of your wicked perverseness ( Isaiah 30:1 Isaiah 30:2 Isaiah 30:9 Isaiah 30:15 Isaiah 30:16 ), Jehovah will delay to be gracious [HORSLEY]. Rather, wait or delay in punishing, to give you time for repentance ( Isaiah 30:13 Isaiah 30:14 Isaiah 30:17 ) [MAURER]. Or, "Yet therefore" (namely, because of the distress spoken of in the previous verses; that distress will lead the Jews to repentance, and so Jehovah will pity them) [GESENIUS].
be exalted--Men will have more elevated views of God's mercy; or else, "He will rise up to pity you" [G. V. SMITH]. Or (taking the previous clause as MAURER, "Therefore Jehovah will delay" in punishing you, "in order that He may be gracious to you," if ye repent), He will be far removed from you (so in Psalms 10:5 , far above out sight); that is, He will not immediately descend to punish, "in order that He may have mercy," &c.
judgment--justice; faithfulness to His covenant.
wait--compare Isaiah 30:15 , wait, namely, for His times of having mercy.
19. ( Isaiah 65:9 ). The restoration from Babylon only typifies the full accomplishment of the prophecy ( Isaiah 30:18-33 ).
weep no more--( Isaiah 25:8 ).
thy cry--( Isaiah 26:8 Isaiah 26:9 , Jeremiah 29:12-14 ).
20. Rather, "The Lord will give"; the "though" is not in the original.
bread of adversity--He will not deny you food enough to save you in your adversity ( 1 Kings 22:27 , Psalms 127:2 ).
be removed--rather, "hide themselves"; they shall no more be forced to hide themselves from persecution, but shall be openly received with reverence [MAURER]. Contrast with this Psalms 74:9 , Amos 8:11 .
21. word--conscience, guided by the Holy Spirit ( John 16:13 ).
22. covering of . . . images--rather, "images" (formed of wood or potter's clay, and) "covered with silver." Hezekiah, and afterwards Josiah, defiled them ( 2 Kings 23:8 2 Kings 23:10 2 Kings 23:14 2 Kings 23:16 , 2 Chronicles 31:1 ; compare Isaiah 2:20 , Deuteronomy 7:25 ).
23. rain of--rather, "for thy seed." Physical prosperity accompanies national piety; especially under the Old Testament. The early rain fell soon after the seed was sown in October or November; the latter rain in the spring, before the ripening of the corn. Both were needed for a good harvest.
fat--bread made of the best wheat flour (compare Genesis 49:20 , Deuteronomy 32:14 ).
24. ear--that is till. Asses were employed in tillage, as well as oxen ( Deuteronomy 22:10 ).
clean--rather, salted provender [GESENIUS]. The Arab proverb is, "Sweet provender is as bread to camels--salted provender as confectionery." The very cattle shall share the coming felicity. Or else, well-fermented maslin, that is, provender formed of a mixture of various substances: grain, beans, vetches, hay, and salt.
winnowed--not as it is usually given to cattle before it is separated from the chaff; the grain shall be so abundant that it shall be given winnowed.
shovel--by which the grain was thrown up in the wind to separate it from the chaff.
fan--an instrument for winnowing.
25. Even the otherwise barren hills shall then be well-watered ( Isaiah 44:3 ).
the day, &c.--when the disobedient among the Jews shall have been slain, as foretold in Isaiah 30:16 : "towers," that is, mighty men ( Isaiah 2:15 ). Or else, the towers of the Assyrian Sennacherib, or of Babylon, types of all enemies of God's people.
26. Image from the heavenly bodies to express the increase of spiritual light and felicity. "Sevenfold" implies the perfection of that felicity, seven being the sacred number. It shall also be literally fulfilled hereafter in the heavenly city ( Isaiah 60:19 Isaiah 60:20 , Revelation 21:23 Revelation 21:24 , 22:5 ).
breach--the wound, or calamity, sent by God on account of their sins ( Isaiah 1:5 ).
27. name of . . . Lord--that is, Jehovah Himself ( Psalms 44:5 , 54:1 ); represented as a storm approaching and ready to burst over the Assyrians ( Isaiah 30:30 Isaiah 30:31 ).
burden . . . is heavy--literally, "grievousness is the flame," that is, the flame which darts from Him is grievous. Or else (as the Hebrew means an "uplifting") the uprising cloud is grievous [G. V. SMITH]; the gathering cloud gradually rising till it bursts.
28. ( Isaiah 11:4 , 2 Thessalonians 2:8 ).
reach . . . neck--the most extreme danger; yet as the head, or capital of Judah, was to be spared ( Isaiah 8:8 ), so the head, or sovereign of Assyria, Sennacherib, should escape.
sieve of vanity--Rather, "the winnowing fan of destruction" [LOWTH] ( Isaiah 41:16 ).
bridle in . . . jaws--as prisoners are represented in the Assyrian inscriptions ( Isaiah 37:29 ).
causing . . . to err--( Isaiah 63:17 ). "People," Hebrew, "peoples," namely, the various races composing the Assyrian armies ( Isaiah 5:26 ).
29. the night . . . solemnity--As in the passover night ye celebrate your deliverance from Egypt, so shall ye celebrate your rescue from Assyrian bondage. Translate, "the solemnity" ( Exodus 12:42 ).
goeth with a pipe--or flute. They used to go up to Jerusalem ("the mountain of the Lord," Zion) at the three feasts with music and gladness ( Deuteronomy 16:16 , Ezra 2:65 , Psalms 122:1-4 ).
30. Jehovah's "glorious voice," raised against the enemy ( Isaiah 30:27 ), is again mentioned here, in contrast to the music ( Isaiah 30:29 ) with which His people shall come to worship Him.
lighting down of . . . arm--( Isaiah 30:32 , Psalms 38:2 ). The descent of His arm in striking.
scattering--namely, a blast that scatters, or an "inundation" [MAURER].
31. The Assyrian rod which beat shall itself be beaten, and that by the mere voice of the Lord, that is, an unseen divine agency ( Isaiah 10:5 Isaiah 10:24 ).
32. grounded--rather, "decreed," "appointed" [MAURER].
staff--the avenging rod.
him--the Assyrian; type of all God's enemies in every age. Margin and MAURER construe, "Every passing through (infliction, Isaiah 28:15 ) of the appointed rod, which, &c., shall be with tabrets," that is, accompanied with joy on the part of the rescued peoples.
battles of shaking--that is, shock of battles ( Isaiah 19:16 ; compare "sift . . . sieve," Isaiah 30:28 ).
with it--namely, Assyria.
33. Tophet--literally, "A place of abomination"; the valley of the sons of Hinnom, southeast of Jerusalem, where Israel offered human sacrifices to Moloch by fire; hence a place of burning ( 2 Kings 23:10 , Jeremiah 7:31 ). Latterly Gehinnom or Gehenna, that is, valley of Hinnom, was the receptacle of the refuse of the city, to consume which fires were constantly burning. Hence it came to express hell, the place of torment. In the former sense it was a fit place to symbolize the funeral pyre of the Assyrian army (not that it actually perished there); the Hebrews did not burn, but buried their dead, but the heathen Assyrians are to be burnt as a mark of ignominy. In the latter sense Tophet is the receptacle "prepared for the devil (antitype to the king, Isaiah 14:12-15 ) and his angels," and unbelieving men ( Matthew 5:22 , 25:41 , Mark 9:43 Mark 9:44 ).