And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And there shall come forth a rod - In the previous chapter, the prophet had represented the Assyrian monarch and his army under the image of a dense and flourishing forest, with all its glory and grandeur. In opposition to this, he describes the illustrious personage who is the subject of this chapter, under the image of a slender twig or shoot, sprouting up from the root of a decayed and fallen tree. Between the Assyrian, therefore, and the person who is the subject of this chapter, there is a most striking and beautiful contrast. The one was at first magnificent - like a vast spreading forest - yet should soon fall and decay; the other was the little sprout of a decayed tree, which should yet rise, expand and flourish.
A rod - (חטר choṭı̂r). This word occurs in but one other place; Proverbs 14:3 : 'In the mouth of the foolish is a "rod" of pride.' Here it means, evidently, a branch, a twig, a shoot, such as starts up from the roots of a decayed tree, and is synonymous with the word rendered "branch" (צמח tsemach) in Isaiah 4:2; see the Note on that place.
Out of the stem - (מגזע mı̂geza‛). This word occurs but three times in the Old Testament; see Job 14:8; where it is rendered "stock:"
Though the root thereof wax old in the earth,
And the stock thereof die in the ground;
And in Isaiah 40:24 : 'Yea, their "stock" shall not take root in the earth.' It means, therefore, the stock or stump of a tree that has been cut down - a stock, however, which may not be quite dead, but where it may send up a branch or shoot from its roots. It is beautifully applied to an ancient family that is fallen into decay, yet where there may be a descendant that shall rise and flourish; as a tree may fall and decay, but still there may be vitality in the root, and it shall send up a tender germ or sprout.
Of Jesse - The father of David. It means, that he who is here spoken of should be of the family of Jesse, or David. Though Jesse had died, and though the ancient family of David would fall into decay, yet there would arise from that family an illustrious descendant. The beauty of this description is apparent, if we bear in recollection that, when the Messiah was born, the ancient and much honored family of David had fallen into decay; that the mother of Jesus, though pertaining to that family, was poor, obscure, and unknown; and that, to all appearance, the glory of the family had departed. Yet from that, as from a long-decayed root in the ground, he should spring who would restore the family to more than its ancient glory, and shed additional luster on the honored name of Jesse.
And a branch - (נצר nêtser). A twig, branch, or shoot; a slip, scion, or young sucker of a tree, that is selected for transplanting, and that requires to be watched with special care. The word occurs but four times; Isaiah 60:21 : 'They shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting;' Isaiah 14:19 : 'But thou art cast out of thy grave as an abominable branch;' Daniel 11:7. The word rendered branch in Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15, is a different word in the original (צמח tsemach), though meaning substantially the same thing. The word "branch" is also used by our translators, in rendering several other Hebrew words; "see" Taylor's "Concordance." Here the word is synonymous with that which is rendered "rod" in the previous part of the verse - a shoot, or twig, from the root of a decayed tree.
Out of his roots - As a shoot starts up from the roots of a decayed tree. The Septuagint renders this, 'And a flower (ἄνθος anthos) shall arise from the root.' The Chaldee, 'And a king shall proceed from the sons of Jesse, and the Messiah from his sons' sons shall arise;' showing conclusively that the ancient Jews referred this to the Messiah.
That this verse, and the subsequent parts of the chapter, refer to the Messiah, may be argued from the following considerations:
(1) The fact that it is expressly applied to him in the New Testament. Thus Paul, in Romans 15:12, quotes the tenth verse of this chapter as expressly applicable to the times of the Messiah.
(2) The Chaldee Paraphrase shows, that this was the sense which the ancient Jews put upon the passage. That paraphrase is of authority, only to show that this was the sense which appeared to be the true one by the ancient interpreters.
(3) The description in the chapter is not applicable to any other personage than the Messiah. Grotius supposes that the passage refers to Hezekiah; though, 'in a more sublime sense,' to the Messiah. Others have referred it to Zerubbabel. But none of the things here related apply to either, except the fact that they had a descent from the family of Jesse; for neither of those families had fallen into the decay which the prophet here describes.
(4) The peace, prosperity, harmony and order, referred to in the subsequent portions of the chapter, are not descriptive of any portion of the reign of Hezekiah.
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
And the Spirit of the Lord - The Spirit of Yahweh. Chaldee, 'And there shall rest upon him the spirit of prophecy from before Yahweh.' In the previous verse, the prophet had announced his origin and his birth. In this, he proceeds to describe his extraordinary endowments, as eminently holy, pure, and wise. There can be no doubt that reference is here had to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the sacred Trinity, as descending upon him in the fullness of his influences, and producing in him perfect wisdom, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. The Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon him - a Spirit producing wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, etc. All these are lit the Scriptures traced to the agency of the Holy Spirit; see 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. The meaning here is, that the Messiah should be endowed with these eminent prophetic gifts and qualifications for his ministry by the agency of the Holy Spirit. It was by that Spirit that the prophets had been inspired (see 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16); and as the Messiah was to be a prophet Deuteronomy 18:15, Deuteronomy 18:18, there was a fitness that he should be endowed in the same manner. If it be asked how one, who was divine in his own nature, could be thus endowed by the aid of the Spirit, the answer is, that he was also to be a man descended from the honored line of David, and that as a man he might be furnished for his work by the agency of the Holy Spirit. His human nature was kept pure; his mind was made eminently wise; his heart always retained the fear and love of God, and there is no absurdity in supposing that these extraordinary endowments were to be traced to God. That he was thus under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is abundantly taught in the New Testament. Thus, in Matthew 3:16, the Holy Spirit is represented as descending on him at his baptism, In John 3:34, it is said, 'For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God, for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him;' compare Colossians 1:19.
Shall rest upon him - That is, shall descend on him, and remain with him. It shall not merely come upon him, but shall attend him permanently; compare Numbers 11:25-26.
The spirit of wisdom - The spirit producing wisdom, or making him wise. Wisdom consists in the choice of the best means to secure the best ends. This attribute is often given to the Messiah in the New Testament, and was always evinced by him; compare 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 2:3 : 'In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.'
And understanding - The difference between the words here rendered wisdom and understanding is, that the former denotes wisdom properly; and the latter, that judgment resulting from wisdom, by which we distinguish things, or decide on their character.
The spirit of counsel - That by which be shall be qualified to "give" counsel or advice; the qualification of a public instructor and guide; see the note at Isaiah 9:6.
And might - Strength, vigor, energy; that strength of heart and purpose which will enable a man to meet difficulties, to encounter dangers, to be bold, open, and fearless in the discharge of his duties. It is not necessary to remark, that this characteristic was found in an eminent degree in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of knowledge - That is, the knowledge of the attributes and plans of Yahweh; compare Matthew 11:27 : 'Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son.' John 1:18 : 'No man hath seen God at I any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him;' 1 John 5:20.
And of the fear of the Lord - The fear of Yahweh is often used to denote piety in general, as consisting in a reverence for the divine commands, and a dread of offending him; "that is," a desire to please him, which is piety; compare Job 28:28; Psalm 19:9; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 19:23. That this characteristic was found eminently in the Lord Jesus, it is not necessary to attempt to prove.
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
And shall make him of quick understanding - (והריחו vahărı̂ychô) The Septuagint renders this, 'And the spirit of the fear of God shall fill him.' The Chaldee, 'And the Lord shall draw him near to him in his fear.' The Syriac, 'And he shall be resplendent (like the sun, or the stars) in the fear of the Lord.' The Hebrew word used here is probably derived from ריח rêyach, used only in Hiphil, "to smell;" and is kindred with רוח rûach, "wind, breath," for fragrant substances "breathe out" an odor. - "Gesenius." It then denotes "to take delight in smelling" Exodus 30:38; Leviticus 26:31; and thence, by an easy transition, to take delight in anything; Amos 5:21. The reason is, that the objects of smell are usually pleasant and agreeable; and especially such as were the aromatics used in public worship. The sense here is, probably, that he would take pleasure in the fear of Yahweh, that is, in piety, and in devoting himself to his service. The interpretation given in our translation, is that given by many expositors; though that above suggested is probably the correct one. The word is used to denote "pleasure" in a thing; it is not used anywhere, it is believed, to denote a quick understanding; compare Exodus 5:21; Philippians 4:18. The idea which is conveyed by our translators is, probably, derived from "the discernment of the quality" of objects by an acute sense of smell, and hence, they interpreted the word to denote an acute discrimination of any objects.
And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes - He sha 1 not judge of things by their external appearance. or with partiality. This is language which is applicable to a magistrate, and is spoken of the Messiah as the descendant of David, and as sitting on his throne as a ruler of his people. He who judges 'after the sight of his eyes,' does it according to external appearances, showing favor to rank, to the rich, and the great; or judging as things "appear" without a close and careful inquiry into their true nature and bearings; compare John 7:24 : 'Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment;' Deuteronomy 1:16-17.
Neither reprove - יוכיח yôkiyach. This word means "to show, to prove; to correct, reprove, convince; to reproach, or censure; to punish; to judge, decide, etc." Here it is evidently used as synonymous with 'shall he judge' in the former part of the parallelism - retaining the idea of a just judge, who decides not according to the hearing of the ears, but according to justice.
After the hearing of his ears - Not by plausible statements, and ingenious defenses, but by weighing evidence, and by an impartial examination of the true merits of the case. This belonged to the Lord Jesus, because,
(1) He was never influenced by any undue regard to rank, honor, or office. His opinions were always impartial; his judgments without bias or favoritism.
(2) He was able to discern the true merits of every case. He knew what was in man, saw the true state of the heart, and, therefore, was not deceived or imposed upon as human judges are; see John 2:24-25; compare Revelation 2:28; John 6:64.
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
Shall he judge the poor - That is, he shall see that impartial justice is done them; he shall not take part with the rich against the poor, but shall show that he is the friend of justice. This is the quality of a just and upright magistrate, and this character the Lord Jesus everywhere evinced. He chose his disciples from among the poor; he condescended to be their companion and friend; he provided for their needs; and he pronounced their condition blessed; Matthew 5:3. There may be a reference here to the poor in spirit - the humble, the penitent; but the main idea is, that he would not be influenced by any undue regard for the higher ranks of life, but would be the friend and patron of the poor.
And reprove - הוכיח hô̂kiyach. And judge, decide, or argue for; that is, he shall be their friend and their impartial judge; Isaiah 11:3.
With equity - With uprightness, or uncorrupted integrity.
For the meek of the earth - ענוי־ארץ ‛anevēy 'ārets. For the humble, the lower class; referring to those who were usually passed by, or oppressed by those in power.
And he shall smite the earth - By the "earth" here, or the land, is meant evidently "the wicked," as the following member of the parallelism shows. Perhaps it is intended to be implied, that the earth, when he should come, would be eminently depraved; which was the fact. The characteristic here is that of an upright judge or prince, who would punish the wicked. To "smite" the earth, or the wicked, is expressive of punishment; and this characteristic is elsewhere attributed to the Messiah; see Psalm 2:9-12; Revelation 2:27. The trait is that of a just, upright, impartial exercise of power - such as would be manifested in the defense of the poor and the innocent, and in the punishment of the proud and the guilty.
With the rod of his mouth - The word שׁבט shêbet rendered here 'rod,' denotes properly a stick, or staff; a rod for chastisement or correction Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 13:24; Job 9:34; Job 21:9; the staff, or scepter of a ruler - as an emblem of office; a measuring rod; a spear, etc.; Note, Isaiah 10:5. It is not elsewhere applied to the mouth, though it is often used in other connections. It means that which goes out of the mouth - a word command threatening decision; and it is implied that it would go forth to pronounce sentence of condemnation, and to punish. His word would be so just, impartial, and authoritative, that the effect would be to overwhelm the wicked. In a sense similar to this, Christ is said to have been seen by John, when 'out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword' Revelation 1:16; that is, his commands and decisions were so authoritative, and so certain in their execution, as to be like a sharp sword; compare Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 49:2 : 'And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword.' The discriminating preaching, the pungent discourses, the authoritative commands of the Lord Jesus, when on earth, showed, and his judicial decisions in the day of judment will show, the manner of the fulfillment of the prediction.
And with the breath of his lips - This is synonymous with the previous member of the parallelism. 'The breath of his lips' means that which goes forth from his lips - his doctrines, his commands, his decisions.
Shall he slay the wicked - That is, he shall condemn the wicked; or, he shall sentence them to punishment. This is descriptive of a prince or ruler, who by his commands and decisions effectually subdues and punishes the wicked; that is, he does justice to all. Grotius interprets this, 'by his prayers,' referring it to Hezekiah, and to the influence of his prayers in destroying the Assyrians. The Chaldee Paraphrast translates it, 'And by the word of his lips he shall slay the impious Armillus.' By "Armillus," the Jews mean the last great enemy of their nation, who would come after Gog and Magog and wage furious wars, and who would slay the Messiah Ben Ephraim, whom the Jews expect, but who would be himself slain by the rod of the Messiah Ben David, or the son of David. - "Castell."
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
And righteousness shall be the gridle of his loins - The sense of this verse is plain. He will always exhibit himself as a just and faithful king. "The girdle of the loins" refers to the cincture, or band, with which the ancients girded themselves. A part of their dress consisted of an outward, loose, flowing robe. This robe it was necessary to gird up, or to confine close to the body in active labor, or in running; and the meaning of the figure used here is, probably, that the virtues of righteousness and justice would adhere to him as closely and inseparably as the garment does to the body to which it was bound. The figure of representing the virtues as clothing, or describing them as parts of dress with which we are invested, is common in the Scriptures:
I put on righteousness, and it clothes me;
My judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
The wolf also - In this, and the following verses, the prophet describes the effect of his reign in producing peace and tranquility on the earth. The description is highly poetical, and is one that is common in ancient writings in describing a golden age. The two leading ideas are those of "peace" and "security." The figure is taken from the condition of animals of all descriptions living in a state of harmony, where those which are by nature defenseless, and which are usually made the prey of the strong, are suffered to live in security. By nature the wolf preys upon the lamb, and the leopard upon the kid, and the adder is venomous, and the bear, and the cow, and the lion, and the ox, cannot live together. But if a state of things should arise, where all this hostility would cease; where the wild animals would lay aside their ferocity, and where the feeble and the gentle would be safe; where the adder would cease to be venomous, and where all would be so mild and harmless that a little child would be safe, and could lead even the most ferocious animals, that state would represent the reign of the Messiah. Under his dominion, such a change would be produced as that those who were by nature violent, severe, and oppressive; those whose disposition is illustrated by the ferocious and bloodthirsty propensities of the lion and the leopard, and by the poison of the adder, would be changed and subdued, and would be disposed to live in peace and harmony with others. This is the "general" idea of the passage. We are not to cut the interpretation to the quick, and to press the expressions to know what particular class of people are represented by the lion, the bear, or the adder. The "general" image that is before the prophet's mind is that of peace and safety, "such as that would be" if a change were to be produced in wild animals, making them tame, and peaceful, and harmless.
This description of a golden age is one that is common in Oriental writers, where the wild beasts are represented as growing tame; where serpents are harmless; and where all is plenty, peace, and happiness. Thus Jones, in his commentary on Asiatic poetry, quotes from an Arabic poet, "Ibn Onein," p. 380:
Justitia, a qua mansuetus fit lupus fame astrictus,
Esuriens, licet hinnulum candidurn videat -
'Justice, by which the ravening wolf, driven by hunger, becomes tame, although he sees a white kid.' Thus, also, Ferdusi, a Persian poet:
Rerum Dominus, Mahmud, rex. potens,
Ad cujus aquam potum veniunt simul agnus et lupus -
'Mahmud, mighty king, lord of events, to whose fountain the lamb and the wolf come to drink.' Thus Virgil, Eclogue iv. 21:
Ipsae lactae domum referent distenta capellae
Ubera; nec magnos metuent armenta leones -
Home their full udders, goats, unurged shall bear,
Nor shall the herd the lordly lion fear.
And immediately after:
Occidet et serpens, et fallax herba veneni
And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
And the cow and the bear shall feed - That is, together. Animals that by nature do not dwell together, where by nature the one would be the prey of the other, shall dwell together - animage of safety and peace.
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox - A representation of the change that will take place under the reign of the Messiah in the natural disposition of men, and in the aspect of society; as great as if the lion were to lose his natural appetite for blood, and to live on the usual food of the ox. This cannot be taken literally, for such an interpretation would suppose a change in the physical organization of the lion - of his appetites, his teeth, his digestive organs - a change which it would be absurd to suppose will ever exist. It would in fact make him a different being. And it is clear, therefore, that the whole passage is to be interpreted in "moral" sense, as denoting great and important changes in society, and in the hearts of men.
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
And the sucking child - An emblem here of harmlessness and innocence. The change in the world, under the Messiah, shall be as great as if a sucking infant should be able to play unharmed with a venomous serpent.
On the hole of the asp - Over, or around the cavern, hole, or place of retreat of the asp. He shall play over that place as safely as if the nature of the asp was changed, and it had become innocuous. The Hebrew word rendered here "asp" (פתן pethen) denotes the serpent usually called the asp, whose poison is of such rapid operation that it kills almost instantly: see Job 20:14, Job 20:16; Psalm 58:4; Psalm 91:13; Deuteronomy 32:33. The word occurs in no other places in the Old Testament. This serpent is small. It is found particularly in Egypt, though also in other places; see the note at Job 20:14. It is used here as the emblem of the more sudden, malignant, and violent passions; and the idea is, that under the Messiah a change would be performed in people of malignant and deadly passions as signal "as if" the asp or adder were to lose his venom, and become innocuous to a child.
And the weaned child - But still, a young and helpless child. The image is varied, but the same idea is retained.
Shall put his hand - That is, he shall do it safely, or uninjured.
On the cockatrice' den - Margin, 'Adder's.' The word rendered here "cockatrice" (צפעוני tsı̂p‛ônı̂y) occurs only in the fellowing places: Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 11:8; Isaiah 59:5; Proverbs 23:32; Jeremiah 8:17. In all these places, it is rendered cockatrice, except in Proverbs 23:32. The "cockatrice" was a fabulous kind of serpent, supposed to be hatched from the egg of a cock. The serpent here designated is, doubtless, a species of the "adder," more venomous, perhaps, than the פתן pethen, but still belonging to the same species. Bochart ("Hieroz." P. ii. lib. iii. ch. ix.) supposes that the "basilisk" is intended - a species of serpent that, he says, was supposed to poison even with its breath. The general idea is the same here as above. It is in vain to attempt to spiritualize these expressions, and to show that they refer to certain individuals, or that the animals here designated refer to particular classes of the enemies of the gospel. It is a mere poetic description, denoting great peace and security; and all the changes in the mad, malignant, and envenomed passions of people, that may be necessary to produce and perpetuate that peace. Pope has versified this description in the following beautiful manner:
The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,
And boys, in flowery bands, the tigers lead.
The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,
And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim's feet.
The smiling infant in his hand shall take
The crested basilisk, and speckled snake;
Pleased, the green luster of the scales survey,
And, with their forked tongue, shall innocently play.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
They shall not hurt - That is, those who are designated above under the emblems of the lion, the leopard, the bear, and the adder.
Nor destroy in all my holy mountain - Mount Zion; used here, as elsewhere, to denote the seat of his reign on the earth, or his church; the notes at Isaiah 1:8; Isaiah 2:4. The disposition of people, naturally ferocious and cruel, shall be changed so entirely, that the causes of strife and contention shall cease. They shall be disposed to do justice, and to promote each other's welfare everywhere.
For the earth - That is, in the times of the Messiah, It does not say that it shall be immediate under his reign, but under his reign this shall occur on the earth.
The knowledge of the Lord - This is put for piety, as the "fear" of the Lord often is. The earth shall be full of a correct understanding of the existence, perfections, plans, and claims of God; and shall be disposed to yield to those claims - thus producing universal peace.
As the waters cover the sea - That is, the depths or the bottom of the sea; compare Habakkuk 2:14. The vast waters of the ocean cover all its depths, find their way into all the caverns, flow into all the recesses on the shore - and thus shall the knowledge of Yahweh spread like deep, flowing waters, until the earth shall be pervaded and covered with it. It is evident that a time is here spoken of which has not yet fully come, and the mind is still directed onward, as was that of the prophet, to a future period when this shall be accomplished. The prophecy has been indeed in part fulfilled. Wherever the gospel has spread, its effect has been just that which is predicted here. It has calmed and subdued the angry passions of people; changed their feelings and their conduct; disposed them to peace; and tended to mitigate national ferocity, to produce kindness to captives, and to those who had been oppressed. It has mitigated laws that were cruel and bloody; and has abolished customs, games, sports, and pastimes that were ferocious and savage. It has often changed the bitter persecutor, as it did Saul of Tarsus, to the mildness and gentleness of a lamb; and it has spread an influence over nations tending to produce humanity and benevolence. It has produced mildness, gentleness, and love, in the domestic circle; changed a the cruel and lordly husband to a companion and friend; and the character of the stern and inexorable father to one of paternal kindness and peace. Wherever it has spread "in truth" and not "in form merely," it has shed a mild, calming, and subduing influence over the passions, laws, and customs of people. But its effects have been but partially felt; and we are led, therefore, to look forward to future times, when the prophecy shall be entirely fulfilled, and the power of the gospel shall be felt in all nations.
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
And in that day - That future time when the reign of the Messiah shall be established; Note, Isaiah 3:2; Isaiah 4:1. The prophet, having described the birth, and the personal characteristics of the great personage to whom he referred, together with the peaceful effects of his reign, proceeds to state the result of that reign in some other respects. The first is Isaiah 11:10, that the "Gentiles" would be brought under his reign; the second Isaiah 11:14, that it would be attended with the restoration of the scattered people of Judea; and the third Isaiah 11:15-16, that it would be followed by the destruction of the enemies of the people of God.
There shall be a root of Jesse - There shall be a sprout, shoot, or scion of the ancient and decayed family of Jesse; see the note at Isaiah 5:1. Chaldee, 'There shall be a son of the sons of Jesse.' The word "root" here - שׁרשׁ shoresh - is evidently used in the sense of a root that, is alive when the tree is dead; a root that sends up a shoot or sprout; and is thus applied to him who should proceed from the ancient and decayed family of Jesse; see Isaiah 53:2. Thus in Revelation 5:5, the Messiah is called 'the" root" of David,' and in Revelation 22:16, 'the root and the offspring of David.'
Which shall stand - There is reference here, doubtless, to the fact that military ensigns were sometimes raised on mountains or towers which were permanent, and which, therefore, could be rallying points to an arm or a people. The idea is, that the root of Jesse, that is, the Messiah, should be conspicuous, and that the nations should flee to him, and rally around him as a people do around a military standard. Thus the Saviour says John 12:32 : 'And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.'
For an ensign - For a standard, or a sign round which they shall rally.
Of the people - That is, as the parallelism shows, of the Gentiles.
To it shall the Gentiles seek - The pagan world shall look to it for safety and deliverance. In the Scriptures, the world is spoken of as divided into Jews and Gentiles. All who are not Jews come under this appellation. This is a distinct prophecy, that other nations than the Jews should be benefited by the work of the Messiah, and constitute a part of his kingdom. This fact is often referred to by Isaiah, and constitutes a very material feature in his prophecies; Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 54:3; Isaiah 60:3, Isaiah 60:5, Isaiah 60:11, Isaiah 60:16; Isaiah 61:6, Isaiah 61:9; Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 66:12, Isaiah 66:19. The word "seek" here, is used in the sense of seeking as a Deliverer, or a Saviour: they shall apply to him for instruction, guidance, and salvation; or they shall apply to him as a nation looks to its deliverer to protect it; compare Isaiah 8:19; 2 Kings 1:3; Isaiah 65:1.
And his rest - The rest, peace, and quietness, which he shall give. This evidently includes all the rest or peace which he shall impart to those who seek him. The word מנוחה menûchâh sometimes denotes "a resting place," or a habitation Numbers 10:33; Micah 2:10; Psalm 132:8; but it also denotes "a state of rest, quietness;" Ruth 1:9; Jeremiah 45:3; Psalm 23:2; Psalm 95:11; Deuteronomy 12:9; Isaiah 28:12; Isaiah 46:1. Here it evidently means the latter. It may refer,
(1) To the peace which he gives to the conscience of the awaened and troubled sinner Matthew 11:28-30; or
(2) To the prosperity and peace which his reign shall produce.
Shall be glorious - Hebrew, 'Shall be glory.' That is, shall be full of glory and honor. It shall be such as shall confer signal honor on his reign. The Chaldee understands this of his place of residence, his palace, or court. 'And the place of his abode shall be in glory.' The Vulgate renders it, 'and his sepulchre shall be glorious.'
'By his rest, we are not to understand his grave - or his death - or his Sabbath - or the rest he gives his people - but his place of rest, his residence. There is no need of supplying a preposition before glory, which is an abstract used for a concrete - glory, for glorious. The church, Christ's home, shall be glorious from his presence, and the accession of the Gentiles.' - (Alexander.) This is a beautiful rendering; it is, moreover, consistent with the letter and spirit of the passage. Some include both ideas.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
And it shall come to pass - The prophet having, in the previous verse, stated the effect of the reign of the Messiah on the Gentile world, proceeds to state the result on the scattered Jews. Whether it is to be a literal re-collecting of the scattered tribes to the land of their fathers, has been a subject of debate, and is still so by expositors. We may be able to determine what is the correct general interpretation after the particular phrases have been examined.
In that day - That future time referred to in this whole prophecy. The word "day" is often used to denote a long time - or the time during which anything continues, as "the day" denotes all the hours until it is terminated by night. So "day" denotes the time of a man's life - 'his day;' or time in general; or the time when one shall be prominent, or be the principal object at that time. Thus it is applied to the time of the Messiah, as being the period of the world in which he will be the prominent or distinguished object; John 8:56 : 'Abraham rejoiced to see my day;' Luke 17:24 : 'So shall the Son of man be in his day.' The expression here means, that somewhere in that future time, when the Messiah should appear, or when the world should be put under him as the Mediator, the event would take place which is here predicted. As the word 'day' includes "all" the time of the Messiah, or all his reign from his first to his second advent, it is not to be supposed that the event would take place when he was personally on earth. Isaiah saw it in vision, as "one" of the events which was to occur after the 'root of Jesse' should stand as an ensign to the nations.
That the Lord shall set his hand - That Yahweh shall undertake this, and accomplish it. To set the hand to anything is to undertake to perform it.
The second time - שׁנית shênı̂yth. This word properly means, as it is here translated, the second time, implying that the prophet here speaks of a deliverance which would resemble, in some respects, a "former" deliverance or recovery. By the former recovery to which he here refers, he cannot mean the deliverance from Egypt under Moses, for at that time there was no recovery from scattered and distant nations. Besides, if "that" was the reference by the former deliverance, then that mentioned here as the 'second' deliverance would be that from the Babylonian captivity. But on the return from that captivity, there was not a collecting of the Jews from all the nations here specified. When the Jews were led back to Judea under Nehemiah, there is no record of their having been collected from 'Egypt,' or from 'Cush,' or from 'the islands of the sea.' It is evident, therefore, I think, that by the former deliverance to which the prophet here alludes - the deliverance which was to precede that designated here as the "second" - he refers to the return from the captivity of Babylon; and by the 'second,' to some still more future recovery that should take place under the administration of the Messiah. This is further confirmed from the fact that the whole scope of the prophecy points to that future period.
To recover - Hebrew, 'To possess,' or, to obtain possession of - לקנות lı̂qenôth. This word properly means to obtain possession of by purchasing or buying anything. But it is also applied to any possession obtained of an object by power, labor, skill, or by delivering from bondage or captivity, and is thus synonymous with "redeem" or "deliver." Thus it is applied to the deliverance of the people from Egypt; Deuteronomy 32:6; Exodus 15:16; Psalm 74:2. It means here, that Yahweh would redeem, rescue, recover his people; but it does not specify the "mode" in which it would be done. Any mode - either by collecting and rescuing them from the regions into which they were scattered into one place, or by a "spiritual" turning to him, wherever they might be, would meet the force of this word. If in the lands where they were scattered, and where they had wandered away from the true God, they were converted, and should become again his people, the event would correspond with all that is meant by the word here.
They would "then" be purchased, possessed, or recovered to himself, by being delivered from their spiritual oppression. It is not necessary, therefore, to resort to the interpretation that they should, in the 'second' deliverance, be restored literally to the land of Canaan. Any argument for that doctrine from this passage must be drawn from the word here used - 'recover' - and that "that" idea is not necessarily involved in this word is abundantly manifest from its familiar use in the Old Testament. All that that word implies, is, that they should "be possessed" by God as his people; an idea which is fully met by the supposition that the scattered Jews everywhere will be converted to the Messiah, and thus become his true people. For this use of the word, see Genesis 25:10; Genesis 47:22; Genesis 49:30; Genesis 50:13; Joshua 24:32; 2 Samuel 12:3; Leviticus 27:24; Nehemiah 5:8. In no place does it necessarily imply the idea of "collecting or restoring" a scattered people to their Own land.
The remnant of his people - That is, the remnant of the Jews, still called his people. In all the predictions respecting the calamities that should ever come upon them, the idea is "always" held out that the nation would not be wholly extinguished; but that, however great the national judgments, a remnant would still survive. This was particularly true in regard to the fearful judgments which Moses denounced on the nation if they should be disobedient, and which have been so strikingly fulfilled; Deuteronomy 28. As the result of those judgments, Moses does not say that Yahweh would annihilate the nation, or extinguish their name, but that the would be 'left few in number,' Deuteronomy 28:62; that Yahweh would scatter them among all people, from the one end of the earth even to the other, Deuteronomy 28:64; and that among these nations they should find no ease, neither should the sole of their foot have rest.
In like manner it was predicted that they should be scattered everywhere. 'I will scatter them also among the pagan, whom neither they nor their fathers have known. I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach, a proverb, a taunt, and a curse, in all places whither I will drive them;' Jeremiah 9:16; Jeremiah 24:9-10. 'I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds;' Ezekiel 5:10. 'I will also scatter them among the nations, among the pagan, and disperse them in the countries;' Ezekiel 12:15, 'I will sift the house of Israel among the nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. They shall be wanderers among the nations;' Amos 9:9. 'I will make a full end of the nations whither I have driven thee, but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished;' Jeremiah 46:28.
From all these, and from numerous other passages in the Old Testament, it is evident that it was designed that the Jewish nation should never be wholly destroyed; that though they were scattered among the nations, they should still be a distinct people; that while other nations would wholly cease to exist, yet that a "remnant" of the Jewish people, with the national peculiarities and customs, would still survive. How entirely this has been fulfilled, the remarkable history of the Jewish people everywhere testifies. Their present condition on the earth, as a people scattered in all nations, yet surviving; without a king and a temple, yet preserving their national prejudices and peculiarities, is a most striking fulfillment of the prophecy; see Keith's "Evidence of the Fulfillment of Prophecy," pp. 64-82.
From Assyria - The name Assyria is commonly applied to that region of country which lies between Media, Mesopotamia, Armenia, and Babylon, and which is now called Kurdistan. The boundaries of the kingdom have often varied, and, as a kingdom or separate nation, it has long since ceased to exist. The name "Assyria" in Scripture is given,
(1) To ancient Assyria, lying east of the Tigris, and between Armenia, Susiana, and Media - the region comprising mostly the modern kingdoms and the pashalic of Mosul.
(3) After the overthrow of the Assyrian empire, the name continued to be applied to those countries which were formerly held under its dominion - including Babylonia 2 Kings 23:29; Jeremiah 2:18, Persia Ezra 6:22, and Syria. - "Robinson; Calmet."
It is in this place applied to that extensive region, and means that the Jews scattered there - of whom there have always been many - shall be brought under the dominion of the Messiah. If the Nestorian Christians in the mountains of Kurdistan are the descendants of the lost ten tribes (see the note at Isaiah 11:12), then the reference here is, doubtless, to them. There are, however, other Jews there, as there always has been; "see" Dr. Grant's work on 'The Nestorians, or, the Lost Ten tribes,' New York, 1841.
And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
And he shall set up an ensign - See Isaiah 11:10. The Messiah shall stand in view of the nations, as a standard is erected by a military leader. An ensign or standard was usually lifted up on the mountains or on some elevated place (compare Isaiah 18:3); and the meaning here is, that the Messiah would be the conspicuous object around which the nations would rally.
And shall assemble - This word, אסף 'âsaph, properly means, to gather, collect, to assemble together, as fruits are collected for preservation Exodus 23:10; to collect a people together Numbers 21:16; to gather or collect gold; 2 Kings 22:4. It may also mean to gather or collect anything for destruction Jeremiah 8:13; and hence, to take out of the way, to kill, destroy; 1 Samuel 15:6. Here, it is evidently synonymous with the word 'recover' in Isaiah 11:11. It cannot be proved that it means that God will "literally" re-assemble all the scattered Jews, for the "collecting them," or regathering them to himself "as his people," though they may be still scattered among the nations, is all that the words necessarily imply. Thus when the word is used, as it is repeatedly, to denote the death of the patriarchs, where it is said they were 'gathered to their fathers,' it does not mean that they were buried in the same grave, or the same vicinity, but that they were united to them in death; they partook of the same lot; they all alike went down to the dead; Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:29; Numbers 20:24; Deuteronomy 32:50.
The outcasts of Israel - The name 'Israel,' applied at first to all the descendants of Jacob, came at length to denote the 'kingdom of Israel,' or of the 'ten tribes,' or of 'Ephraim,' as the tribes which revolted under Jeroboam were called. In this sense it is used in the Scriptures after the time of Jeroboam, and thus it acquired a technical signification, distinguishing it from Judah.
The dispersed of Judah - 'Judah,' also, though often used in a general sense to denote the Jews as such, without reference to the distinction in tribes, is also used technically to denote the kingdom of Judah, as distinguished from the kingdom of Israel. The tribe of Judah was much larger than Benjamin, and the name of the latter was lost in the former. A considerable part of the ten tribes returned again to their own land, with those of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; a portion remained still in the countries of the East, and were intermingled with the other Jews who remained there. All distinctions of the tribes were gradually abolished, and there is no reason to think that the 'ten tribes,' here referred to by the name 'Israel,' have now anywhere a distinct and separate existence; see this point fully proved in a review of Dr. Grant's work on '" The Nestorians, or, the Lost Ten tribes,"' in the "Bib. Rep." for October 1841, and January 1842, by Prof. Robinson. The literal meaning here then would be, that he would gather the remains of those scattered people, whether pertaining to 'Israel' or 'Judah,' from the regions where they were dispersed.
It does not necessarily mean that they would be regathered in their distinctive capacity as 'Israel' and 'Judah,' or that the distinction would be still preserved, but that the people of God would be gathered together, and that all sources of alienation and discord would cease. The meaning, probably, is, that under the Messiah all the remains of that scattered people, in all parts of the earth, whether originally pertaining to 'Israel' or 'Judah,' should be collected into one spiritual kingdom, constituting one happy and harmonious people. To the fulfillment of this, it is not necessary to be supposed that they would be literally gathered into one place, or that they would be restored to their own land, or that they would be preserved as a distinct and separate community. The leading idea is, that the Messiah would set up a glorious kingdom in which all causes of alienation and discord would cease.
From the four corners of the earth - Chaldee, 'From the four winds of the earth.' The Septuagint renders it, 'From the four wings (πτερύγων pterugōn) of the earth.' It means, that they should be collected to God from each of the four parts of the earth - the east, the west, the north, and the south. The Hebrew word rendered here 'corners,' means properly "wings." It is applied, however, to the corner, or border of a thing, as a skirt, or mantle 1 Samuel 24:5, 1 Samuel 24:11; Deuteronomy 23:1; and hence, to the boundaries, or corners of the earth, because the earth seems to have been represented as a quadrangular plain; Ezekiel 7:2.
The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.
The envy also - The word "envy" here, is used in the sense of "hatred," or the hatred which arose from the "ambition" of Ephraim, and from the "prosperity" of Judah. Ephraim here, is the name for the kingdom of Israel, or the ten tribes. The reasons of their envy and enmity toward Judah, all arising from their ambition, were the following:
(1) This tribe, in connection with those which were allied to it, constituted a very large and flourishing part of the Jewish nation. They were, therefore, envious of any other tribe that claimed any superiority, and particularly jealous of Judah.
(2) they occupied a central and commanding position in Judea, and naturally claimed the pre-eminence over the tribes on the north.
(3) they had been formerly highly favored by the abode of the ark and the tabernacle among them, and, on that account, claimed to be the natural "head" of the nation; Joshua 18:1, Joshua 18:8, Joshua 18:10; Judges 18:31; Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 1:3, 1 Samuel 1:24.
(4) when Saul was king, though he was of the tribe of Benjamin 1 Samuel 9:2, they submitted peaceably to his reign, because the Benjaminites were in alliance with them, and adjacent to them. But when Saul died, and the kingdom passed into the hands of David, of the tribe of Judah, their natural rival, thus exalting that powerful tribe, they became dissatisfied and restless. David kept the nation united; but on his death, they threw off the yoke of his successor, and became a separate kingdom. From this time, their animosities and strifes became an importer and painful part of the history of the Jewish nation, until the kingdom of Ephraim was removed. The language here is evidently figurative, and means, that in the time here referred to under the messiah, the causes of animosity, before existing, would cease; that contentions between those who are, by nature, brethren, and who ought to evince the spirit of brethren, would come to an end; and that those animosities and strike would be succeeded by a state of amity and peace. When the scattered Jews shall be regathered to God under the Messiah, all the contentions among them shall cease, and they shall be united under one king and prince. All the causes of contention which had so long existed, and which had produced such disastrous results, would come to an end. The strifes and contentions of these two kingdoms, once belonging to the same nation, and descended from the same ancestors - the painful and protracted "family broil" - was the object that most prominently attracted the attention, then, of the prophets of God. The most happy idea of future blessedness which was presented to the mind of the prophet, was that period when all this should cease, and when, under the Messiah, all should be harmony and love.
And the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off - That is, Judah shall be safe; the people of God shall be delivered from their enemies - referring to the future period under the Messiah, when the church should be universally prosperous.
Judah shall not vex Ephraim - Shall not oppress, disturb, or oppose. There shall be peace between them. The church prospers only when contentions and strifes cease; when Christians lay aside their animosities, and love as brethren, and are "united" in the great work of spreading the gospel around the world. That time will yet come. When that time comes, the kingdom of the Son of God will be established. "Until" that time, it will be in vain that the effort is made to bring the world to the knowledge of the truth; or if not wholly in vain, the efforts of Christians who seek the conversion of the world will be retarded, embarrassed, and greatly enfeebled. How devoutly, therefore, should every friend of the Redeemer pray, that all causes of strife may cease, and that his people may be united, as the heart of one man, in the effort to bring the whole world to the knowledge of the truth.
But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
But they shall fly - The design of this verse is, to show the rapid and certain spiritual conquests which would result from the conversion of the scattered Jewish people. The Jews understood this literally, as referring to the conquests over their enemies. But if the exposition which has been given of this chapter thus far is correct, the passage is to be interpreted as a figurative description of the triumph of the people of God under the Messiah. The "time" to which it refers, is that which shall succeed the conversion of the scattered Jews. The "effect" of the gospel is represented under an image which, to Jews, would be most striking - that of conquest over the neighboring nations with whom they had been continually at war. Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Ammon, had been always the enemies of Judea; and to the Jews, no figurative representation could be more striking than that, "after" the union of Judah and Ephraim, they should proceed in rapid and certain conquest to subdue their ancient and formidable enemies. The meaning of the phrase 'they shall fly,' is, they shall hasten with a rapid motion, like a bird. They shall do it quickly, without delay, as an eagle hastens to its prey. It indicates their "suddenly" engaging in this, and the celerity and certainty of their movements. As the united powers of Judah and Ephraim would naturally make a sudden descent on Philistia, so the Jews, united under the Messiah, would go to the rapid and certain conversion of those who had been the enemies of the cross.
Upon the shoulders - בכתף bekâthêph. There has been a great variety in the interpretation of this passage; and it is evident that our translation does not express a very clear idea. The Septuagint renders it, 'And they shall fly in the ships of foreigners, and they shall plunder the sea.' The Chaldee, 'And they shall be joined with one shoulder, that is, they shall be "united" shoulder to shoulder, that they may smite the Philistines who are in the west.' The Syriac, 'But they shall "plow" the Philistines;' that is, they shall subdue them, and cultivate their land. The word rendered, 'shoulder,' means, properly, "the shoulder," as of a man or beast Isaiah 46:7; Isaiah 49:22; Numbers 7:9; Job 31:22; Ezekiel 24:4; the undersetters or shoulders to support the lavers 1 Kings 7:30; a corner or side of a building Exodus 38:14; and is applied to "the side" of anything, as the side of a building, the border of a country, a city, or sea (1 Kings 6:8; 1 Kings 7:39; Numbers 34:11; Joshua 15:8, Joshua 15:10-11, ...) Here it seems to mean, not that the Jews would be borne "upon" the shoulder of the Philistines, but that they would make a sudden and rapid descent "upon their borders:" they would invade their territory, and carry their conquest 'toward the west.' The construction is, therefore, 'they shall make a rapid descent on the borders of the Philistines,' or, in other words, the spiritual conquest over the enemies of the church of God shall be certain and rapid.
The Philistines - Philistia was situated on the southwestern side of the land of Canaan. The Philistines were therefore adjacent to the Jews, and were often involved in war with them. They were among the most constant and formidable enemies which the Jews had.
Toward the west - This does not mean that they should be borne on the shoulders of the Philistines to the west; but that they should make a sudden and rapid descent on the Philistines, who "were" west of them. It stands opposed to the nations immediately mentioned as lying "east" of the land of Judea.
They shall spoil - They shall plunder; or, they shall take them, and their towns and property, as the spoil of war. That is, they shall vanquish them, and make them subject to them. According to the interpretation which has been pursued in this chapter, it means, that the enemies of God shall be subdued, and brought to the knowledge of the truth, in a rapid and decisive manner. The language is that which is drawn from the idea of conquest; the idea is that of a rapid and far-spreading conversion among the nations, to the gospel.
Them of the east - Hebrew, 'The sons of the east; that is, the nations east of Judea.
They shall lay their hand - Hebrew, 'Edom and Moab shall be the laying on of their hand;' that is, they shall lay their hand on those nations for conquest and spoil; they shall subdue them.
Edom - Idumea; the country settled by the descendants of Esau - a country that was south of Judea, and extended from the Dead Sea to the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea. They were an independent people until the time of David, and were reduced to subjection by him, but they afterward revolted and became again independent. They were often engaged in wars with the Jews, and their conquest was an object that was deemed by the Jews to be very desirable (see the notes at Isaiah 34.)
And Moab - The country of the Moabites was east of the river Jordan, on both sides of the river Arnon, and adjoining the Dead Sea. Their capital was on the river Arnon. They also were often involved in wars with the Jews (compare Deuteronomy 23:3; see the notes at Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14.)
And the children of Ammon - The Ammonites, the descendants of Ammon, a son of Lot. Their country lay southeast of Judea Deuteronomy 2:19-21. Their territory extended from the river Arnon north to the river Jabbok, and from the Jordan far into Arabia. It was directly north of Moab, They were often engaged, in alliance with the Moabites, in waging war against the Jews.
Shall obey them - Hebrew, 'Shall be their obedience.' All these descriptions are similar. They are not to be interpreted literally, but are designed to denote the rapid triumphs of the truth of God after the conversion of the Jews; and the sense is, that the conquests of the gospel will be as sudden, as great, and as striking over its enemies, as would have been the complete subjugation of Philistia, Moab, Ammon, and Edom, to the victorious army of the Jews.
And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod.
And the Lord - The prophet goes on with the description of the effect which shall follow the return of the scattered Jews to God. The language is figurative, and is here drawn from that which was the great storehouse of all the imagery of the Jews - the deliverance of their fathers from the bondage of Egypt. The general sense is, that all the embarrassments which would tend to impede them would be removed; and that God would make their return as easy and as safe, as would have been the journey of their fathers to the land of Canaan, if the 'Egyptian Sea' had been removed entirely, and if the 'river,' with its 'seven streams,' by nature so formidable a barrier, had been dried up, and a path had been made to occupy its former place. Figuratively, the passage means, that all the obstructions to the peace and safety of the people of God would be removed, and that their way would be easy and safe.
The tongue - The Hebrews applied the word 'tongue' to anything that resembled a tongue - to a bar of gold Joshua 7:21, Joshua 7:24; to a flame of fire (note, Isaiah 5:24; compare Acts 2:3); to a bay of the sea, or a gulf, from its shape Joshua 15:5; Joshua 18:19. So we speak of a tongue of land. When it is said that the Lord would 'utterly destroy' it, it is equivalent to saying that it would be entirely dried up; that is, so as to present no obstruction.
Of the Egyptian Sea - Some interpreters, among whom is Vitringa, have supposed that by the tongue of the Egyptian Sea mentioned here, is meant the river Nile, which flows into the Mediterranean, here called, as they suppose, the Egyptian Sea. Vitringa observes that the Nile, before it flows into the Mediterranean, is divided into two streams or rivers, which form the Delta or the triangular territory lying between these two rivers, and bounded on the north by the Mediterranean. The eastern branch of the Nile being the largest, he supposes is called the tongue or "bay" of the Egyptian Sea. But to this interpretation there are obvious objections:
(1) It is not known that the Mediterranean is elsewhere called the Egyptian Sea.
(2) This whole description pertains to the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt The imagery is all drawn from that. But, in their departure, the Nile constituted no obstruction. Their place of residence, in Goshen, was east of the Nile. All the obstruction that they met with, from any sea or river, was from the Red Sea.
(3) The Red Sea is divided, at its northern extremity, into two bays, or forks, which may be called the "tongues" of the sea, and across one of which the Israelites passed in going from Egypt. Of these branches, the western one was called the Heroopolite branch, and the eastern, the Elanitic branch. It was across the western branch that they passed. When it is said that Yahweh would 'destroy' this, it means that he would dry it up so that it would be no obstruction; in other words, he would take the most formidable obstructions to the progress of his people out of the way.
And with his mighty wind - With a strong and powerful wind. Michaelis supposes that by this is meant a tempest. But there is, more probably, a reference to a strong and steady hot wind, such as blows over burning deserts, and such as would have a tendency to dry up even mighty waters. The illustration is, probably, derived from the fact that a strong east wind was employed to make a way through the Red Sea Exodus 14:21. If the allusion here be rather to a mighty wind or a tempest, than to one that is hot, and that tends to evaporate the waters even of the rivers, then it means that the wind would be so mighty as to part the waters, and make a path through the river, as was done in the Red Sea and at the Jordan. The "idea" is, that God would remove the obstructions to the rapid and complete deliverance and conversion of people.
Shall he shake his hand - This is to indicate that the mighty wind will be sent from God, and that it is designed to effect this passage through the rivers. The shaking of the band, in the Scripture, is usually an indication of anger, or of strong and settled purpose (see Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 13:2; Zechariah 2:9).
Over the river - Many have understood this as referring to the Nile; but two considerations show that the Euphrates is rather intended:
(1) The term 'the river' (הנהר hanâhâr) is usually applied to the Euphrates, called the river, by way of eminence; and when the term is used without any qualification, that river is commonly intended (see the notes at Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 8:7; compare Genesis 31:21; Genesis 36:37; 1 Kings 4:21; Ezra 4:10, Ezra 4:16; Ezra 5:3).
(2) the effect of this smiting of the river is said to be Isaiah 11:16 that there would be a highway for the people "from Assyria," which could be caused only by removing the obstruction which is produced by the Euphrates lying between Judea and some parts of Assyria.
And shall smite it - That is to dry it up, or to make it pasable.
In the seven streams - The word 'streams' here (נחלים nechâlı̂ym) denotes streams of much less dimensions than a river. It is applied to a "valley" with a brook running through it Genesis 26:19; and then to any small brook or stream, or rivulet Genesis 32:24; Psalm 74:15. Here it denotes brooks or streams that would be fordable. When it is said that the river should be smitten 'in the seven streams,' the Hebrew does not mean that it was "already" divided into seven streams, and that God would smite "them," but it means, that God would smite it "into" seven streams or rivulets; that is, into "many" such rivulets (for the number seven is often used to denote a large indefinite number, Note, Isaiah 4:1); and the expression denotes, that though the river presented an obstruction, in its natural size, which they could not overcome, yet God would make new channels for it, and scatter it into innumerable rivulets or small streams, so that they could pass ever it dry-shod.
A remarkable illustration of this occurs in Herodotus (i.:189): 'Cyrus, in his march to Babylon, arrived at the river Gyndes, which, rising in the mountains of Matiene, and passing through the country of the Darneans, loses itself in the Tigris; and this, after flowing by Opis, is finally discharged into the Red Sea. While Cyrus was endeavoring to pass this river, which could not be perfomed without boats, one of the white consecrated horses boldly entering the stream, in his attempts to cross it, was borne away by the rapidity of the current, and totally lost. Cyrus, exasperated by the accident, made a vow that he would render this stream so very insignificant, that women should hereafter be able to cross it without so much as wetting their feet. He accordingly suspended his designs on Babylon, and divided his forces into two parts; he then marked out with a line on each side of the river, one hundred and eighty trenches; these were dug according to his orders, and so great a number of people were employed that he accomplished his purpose; but he thus wasted the whole of that summer' (see also Seneca, "De Ira." iii.continued...
And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.
And there shall be an highway - All obstructions shall be removed, and they shall be permitted to return without hinderance (compare the note at Isaiah 35:8).
For the remnant of his people from Assyria - See note at Isaiah 11:11.
Like as it was to Israel... - That is, God will remove all obstructions as he did at the Red Sea; he will subdue all their enemies; he will provide for their needs; and he will interpose by the manifest marks of his presence and protection, as their God and their friend. The general view of the chapter is, therefore, that it, refers to the triumph of the Messiah's kingdom; that it is not yet fully accomplished; and that the time is coming when the scattered Jews shall be regathered to God - not returned to their own land, but brought again under his dominion under the administration of the Messiah; and that this event shall be attended with a sudden removal of the obstructions to the gospel, and to its rapid spread everywhere among the nations. Comparing this with the present state of the Jews, we may remark, in regard to this prospect:
(1) That they are now, and will continue to be, scattered in all nations. They have been driven to all parts of the earth - wanderers without a home - yet continuing their customs, rites, and special opinions; and continuing to live, notwithstanding all the efforts of the nations to crush and destroy them.
(2) They speak nearly all the languages of the world. They are acquainted with all the customs, prejudices, and opinions of the nations of the earth. They would, therefore, be under no necessity of engaging in the laborious work of learning language - which now occupies so much of the time, and consumes so much of the strength of the modern missionary.
(3) The law of God is thus in all nations. It is in every synagogue; and it has been well said, that the law there is like extinguished candles, and that all that is needful to illuminate the world, is to light those candles. Let the Jew everywhere be brought to see the true meaning of his law; let the light of evangelical truth shine into his synagogue, and the world would be at once illuminated. The truth would go with the rapidity of the sunbeams from place to place, until the whole earth would be enlightened with the knowledge of the Redeemer.
(4) The Jews, when converted, make the best missionaries. There is a freshness in their views of the Messiah when they are converted, which Gentile converts seldom feel. The apostles were all Jews; and the zeal of Paul shows what converted Jews will do when they become engaged in making known the true Messiah. If it has been a characteristic of their nation that they would 'compass sea and land to make one proselyte,' what will their more than three million accomplish when they become converted to the true faith of the Redeemer? We have every reason, therefore, to expect that God intends to make great use yet of the Jews, whom he has preserved scattered everywhere - though they be but a 'remnant' - in converting the world to his Son. And we should most fervently pray, that they may be imbued with love to their long-rejected Messiah, and that they may everywhere become the missionaries of the cross.