Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!
Wo - (see the note at Isaiah 30:1).
To them that go down to Egypt - (see the note at Isaiah 30:2).
And stay on horses - (see the note at Isaiah 30:16).
Because they are many - Because they hope to secure the aid of many. See the references above. It is evident that their confidence in them would be in proportion to the number which they could bring into the field.
But they look not ... - (see the note at Isaiah 30:1)
Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.
Yet he also is wise - God is wise. It is in vain to attempt to deceive him, or to accomplish such purposes without his knowledge.
And will bring evil - The punishment which is due to such want of confidence in him.
But will arise against the house of the evil-doers - This is a general proposition, and it is evidently just as true now as it was in the time of Isaiah.
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.
Now the Egyptians are men - They are nothing but people; they have no power but such as other people possess. The idea here is, that the case in reference to which they sought aid was one in which "divine" help was indispensable, and that, therefore, they relied on the aid of the Egyptians in vain.
And their horses flesh, and not spirit - There is need, not merely of "physical" strength, but of wisdom, and intelligence, and it is in vain to look for that in mere brutes.
Both he that helpeth - Egypt, whose aid is sought.
And he that is holpen - Judah, that had sought the aid of Egypt. Neither of them would be able to stand against the wrath of God.
For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.
For thus hath the Lord spoken - The design of this verse and the following is to assure the Jews of the certain protection of Yahweh, and thus to induce them to put their trust in him rather than to seek the alliance with Egypt. To do this the prophet makes use of two striking illustrations, the first of which is, that Yahweh would be no more alarmed at the number and power of their enemies than a fierce lion would be that was intent on his prey, and could not be frightened from it by any number of men that should come against him. The "point" of this comparison is, that as the lion that "was intent on his purpose" could not be frightened from it by numbers, so it would be with Yahweh, who "was equally intent on his purpose" - the defense of the city of Jerusalem. It does not mean, of course, that the purpose of God and of the lion resembled each other, but merely that there was similar "intensity of purpose," and similar adherence to it notwithstanding all opposition. The figure is one that denotes the highest vigilance, firmness, steadiness, and a determination on the part of Yahweh that Jerusalem should not fall into the hands of the Assyrians.
Like as the lion - The divine nature and purposes are often represented in the Scriptures by metaphors, allegories, and comparisons taken from animals, and especially from the lion (see Deuteronomy 33:20; Job 10:16; Psalm 7:2; Hosea 11:10).
And the young lion - The vigorous, strong, fierce lion. The use of the two here, gives intensity and strength to the comparison. It is observable that the lion is seldom mentioned alone in the Scriptures.
Roaring on his prey - Roaring as he seizes on his prey. This is the moment of the greatest intensity of purpose in the lion, and it is therefore used by Isaiah to denote the intense purpose of Yahweh to defend Jerusalem, and not to be deterred by any number of enemies.
When a multitude of shepherds is called forth - When the neighborhood is alarmed, and all the inhabitants turn out to destroy him. This comparison is almost exactly in the spirit and language of Homer, "Il." xii. 209, following:
So pressed with hunger from the mountain's brow,
Descends a lion on the flocks below;
So stalks the lordly savage o'er the plain,
In sullen majesty and stern disdain:
In vain loud mastiffs bay him from afar,
And shepherds gall him with an iron war;
Regardless, furious, he pursues his way;
He foams, he roars, he rends the panting prey.
As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.
As birds flying - This is another comparison indicating substantially the same thing as the former, that Yahweh would protect Jerusalem. The idea here is, that He would do it in the same manner as birds defend their young by hovering over them, securing them under their wings, and leaping forward, if they are suddenly attacked, to defend them. Our Saviour has used a similar figure to indicate his readiness to have defended and saved the same city Matthew 23:27, and it is possible that he may have had this passage in his eye. The phrase 'birds flying,' may denote the "rapidity" with which birds fly to defend their young, and hence, the rapidity with which God would come to defend Jerusalem; or it may refer to the fact that birds, when their young are attacked, fly, or flutter around them to defend them; they will not leave them.
And passing over - פסוח pâsoach. Lowth renders this, 'Leaping forward.' This word, which is usually applied in some of its forms to the Passover Exodus 12:13, Exodus 12:23, Exodus 12:27; Numbers 9:4; Joshua 5:11; 2 Chronicles 30:18, properly means, as a verb, "to pass over," and hence, to preserve or spare. The idea in the passage is, that Yahweh would protect Jerusalem, as a bird defends its young.
Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted.
Turn ye unto him - In view of the fact that he will assuredly defend Jerusalem, commit yourselves unto him rather than seek the aid of Egypt.
Have deeply revolted - For the meaning of this phrase, see the note at Isaiah 29:15.
For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin.
For in that day - That is, in the invasion of Sennacherib, and the events that shalt be consequent thereon.
For a sin - Or rather, the sin which your own hands have made. The sense is, that the making of those idols had been a sin, or sin itself. It had been "the" sin, by way of eminence, which was chargeable upon them.
Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be discomfited.
Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword - The sword is often used as an instrument of punishment. It is not meant here literally that the sword would be used, but it is employed to denote that complete destruction would come upon them.
Not of a mighty man - The idea here is, that the army should not fall by the valor of a distinguished warrior, but that it should be done by the direct interposition of God (see Isaiah 37:36).
Of a mean man - Of a man of humble rank. His army shall not be slain by the hand of mortals.
But he shall flee - The Assyrian monarch escaped when his army was destroyed, and fled toward his own land; Isaiah 37:37.
From the sword - Margin, 'For fear of.' The Hebrew is 'From the face of the sword;' and the sense is, that he would flee in consequence of the destruction of his host, here represented as destroyed by the sword of Yahweh.
And his young men - The flower and strength of his army.
Shall be discomfited - Margin, 'For melting;' or 'tribute,' or 'tributary.' Septuagint, Εἰς ἥττημα Eis hēttēma - 'For destruction.' The Hebrew word (מס mas), derived probably from מסס mâsas, "to melt away, to dissolve") is most usually employed to denote a levy, fine, or tax - so called, says Taylor, because it wastes or exhausts the substance and strength of a people. The word is often used to denote that people become tributary, or vassals, as in Genesis 49:15; Deuteronomy 20:11; compare Joshua 16:10; 2 Samuel 20:24; 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 5:13; Esther 10:1. Probably it does not here mean that the strength of the Assyrian army would become literally tributary to the Jews, but that they would be as if they had been placed under a levy to them; their vigor and strength would melt away; as property and numbers do under taxation and tribute.
And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.
And he shall pass over - Margin, 'His rock shall pass away for fear.' The Hebrew would bear this, but it does not convey a clear idea. The sense seems to be this. The word rendered 'stronghold' (Hebrew, 'His rock') denotes his fortifications, or the places of strength in which he trusted. Probably the Assyrian monarch had many such places which he regarded as perfectly secure, both in the limits of his own kingdom, and on the line of his march toward Judea. Those places would naturally be made strong, in order to afford a refuge in case of a defeat. The idea here is, that so great would be his alarm at the sudden destruction of his army and the failure of his plans, that in his flight he would "pass over" or "beyond" these strong places; he would not even stop to take refuge there and reorganize his scattered forces, but would flee with alarm "beyond" them, and make his way to his own capital. This appears to have been most strikingly fulfilled (see Isaiah 37:37).
And his princes - Those, perhaps, that ruled over his dependent provinces.
Shall be afraid of the ensign - That is, of any standard or banner that they saw. They would suppose that it was the standard of an enemy. This denotes a state of great consternation, when all the princes and nobles under the command of the Assyrian would be completely dismayed.
Whose fire is in Zion ... - That is, whose altar is there, and always burns there. That was the place where he was worshipped, and it was a place, therefore, which he would defend. The meaning is, that they would be as certainly destroyed as the God whose altar was in Jerusalem was a God of truth, and would defend the place where he was worshipped.
And his furnace ... - (see the note at Isaiah 29:1). Where his altar continually burns. The word rendered 'furnace' (תנור tannûr) means properly a baking oven Exodus 8:3; Leviticus 2:4; Leviticus 7:9; Leviticus 11:35. This was either a large conical pot which was heated, in which the cakes were baked at the sides; or an excavation made in the earth which was heated by putting wood in it, and when that was removed, the dough was put in it. Perhaps the whole idea here is, that Yahweh had a home in Jerusalem, with the usual appendages of a house; that his fire and his oven were there, an expression descriptive of a dwelling-place. If so, then the meaning is, that he would defend his own home, and that the Assyrian could not expect to prevail against it.