Isaiah 1:7
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Your country is desolate . . .—It is natural to take the words as describing the actual state of things when the prophet wrote. There had been such invasions in the days of Ahaz, in which Israel and Syria (Isaiah 7:1), Edom and the Philistines, had been conspicuous (2Chronicles 28:17-18); and the reign of Hezekiah already had witnessed that of Sargon (Isaiah 20:1).

The Hebrew has no copulative verb, but joins subject and predicate together with the emphasis of abruptness: Your landa desolation, and so on. The repetition of the word “strangers” is characteristic of Isaiah’s style.

As overthrown by strangers.—Conjectural readings give (1) “as the overthrow of Sodom;” (2) “as the overthrow of (i.e., wrought by) a rain-storm.” The word rendered “overthrown” is elsewhere applied only to the destruction of the cities of the plain (Deuteronomy 29:23; Amos 4:11; Jeremiah 49:18). So taken, the clause prepares the way for the fuller comparison of Isaiah 1:9-10.

Isaiah 1:7-8. Your country is desolate — “The description of the ruined and desolate state of the country, in these verses,” says Bishop Lowth, “does not suit with any part of the prosperous times of Uzziah and Jotham. It very well agrees with the time of Ahaz, when Judea was ravaged by the joint invasion of the Israelites and Syrians, and by the incursions of the Philistines and Edomites. The date of this prophecy is therefore generally fixed to the time of Ahaz.” Strangers devour it in your presence — Which your eyes see to torment you, when there is no power in your hands to deliver you. As overthrown, &c. — כמהפכת, as the overthrow; of strangers — That is, such as strangers bring upon a land which is not likely to continue in their hands, and therefore they spare no persons; and spoil and destroy all things, which is not usually done in wars between persons of the same or of a neighbouring nation. And the daughter of Zion is left — Is left solitary, all the neighbouring villages and country round about it being laid waste. As a cottage — Or, as a shed in a vineyard, as Bishop Lowth translates it, namely, “a little temporary hut, covered with boughs, straw, turf, or the like materials, for a shelter from the heat by day, and the cold and dews by night, for the watchman that kept the garden, or vineyard, during the short season while the fruit was ripening; see Job 27:18; and presently removed when it had served that purpose.” — See Harmer, Observ. 1:454.1:1-9 Isaiah signifies, The salvation of the Lord; a very suitable name for this prophet, who prophesies so much of Jesus the Saviour, and his salvation. God's professing people did not know or consider that they owed their lives and comforts to God's fatherly care and kindness. How many are very careless in the affairs of their souls! Not considering what we do know in religion, does us as much harm, as ignorance of what we should know. The wickedness was universal. Here is a comparison taken from a sick and diseased body. The distemper threatens to be mortal. From the sole of the foot even to the head; from the meanest peasant to the greatest peer, there is no soundness, no good principle, no religion, for that is the health of the soul. Nothing but guilt and corruption; the sad effects of Adam's fall. This passage declares the total depravity of human nature. While sin remains unrepented, nothing is done toward healing these wounds, and preventing fatal effects. Jerusalem was exposed and unprotected, like the huts or sheds built up to guard ripening fruits. These are still to be seen in the East, where fruits form a large part of the summer food of the people. But the Lord had a small remnant of pious servants at Jerusalem. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed. The evil nature is in every one of us; only Jesus and his sanctifying Spirit can restore us to spiritual health.Your country is desolate - This is the literal statement of what he had just affirmed by a figure. In this there was much art. The figure Isaiah 1:6 was striking. The resemblance between a man severely beaten, and entirely livid and sore, and a land perfectly desolate, was so impressive as to arrest the attention. This had been threatened as one of the curses which should attend disobedience; Leviticus 26:33 :

And I will scatter you among the heathen,

And will draw out a sword after you:

And your land shall be desolate,

And your cities waste.

Compare Isaiah 1:31; Deuteronomy 28:49-52. It is not certain, or agreed among expositors, to what time the prophet refers in this passage. Some have supposed that he refers to the time of Ahaz, and to the calamities which came upon the nation during his reign; 2 Chronicles 28:5-8. But the probability is, that this refers to the time of Uzziah; see the Analysis of the chapter. The reign of Uzziah was indeed prosperous; 2 Chronicles 26. But it is to be remembered that the land had been ravaged just before, under the reigns of Joash and Amaziah, by the kings of Syria and Israel; 2 Kings 14:8-14; 2 Chronicles 24; 25; and it is by no means probable that it had recovered in the time of Uzziah. It was lying under the effect of the former desolation, and not improbably the enemies of the Jews were even then hovering around it, and possibly still in the very midst of it. The kingdom was going to decay, and the reign of Uzziah gave it only a temporary prosperity.

Is desolate - Hebrew: "Is desolation." שׁממה shemâmâh. This is a Hebrew mode of emphatic expression, denoting that the desolation was so universal that the land might be said to be entirely in ruins.

Your land - That is, the fruit, or productions of the land. Foreigners consume all that it produces.

Strangers - זרים zâryı̂m, from זור zûr, to be alienated, or estranged, Isaiah 1:4. It is applied to foreigners, that is, those who were not Israelites, Exodus 30:33; and is often used to denote an enemy, a foe, a barbarian; Psalm 109:11 :

Let the extortioner catch all that he hath,

And let the strangers plunder his labor.

Ezekiel 11:9; Ezekiel 28:10; Ezekiel 30:12; Hosea 7:9; Hosea 8:7. The word refers here particularly to the Syrians.

Devour it - Consume its provisions.

In your presence - This is a circumstance that greatly heightens the calamity, that they were compelled to look on and witness the desolation, without being able to prevent it.

continued...

7. Judah had not in Uzziah's reign recovered from the ravages of the Syrians in Joash's reign (2Ch 24:24), and of Israel in Amaziah's reign (2Ch 25:13, 23, &c.). Compare Isaiah's contemporary (Am 4:6-11), where, as here (Isa 1:9, 10), Israel is compared to "Sodom and Gomorrah," because of the judgments on it by "fire."

in your presence—before your eyes: without your being able to prevent them.

desolate, &c.—literally, "there is desolation, such as one might look for from foreign" invaders.

All this and what follows was verified in the days of king Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 28, in whose time, and upon which occasion, this prophecy seems to have been delivered, as more exactly agreeing with that time than with any other. If any object, that this being the first of his prophecies, must rather belong to the days of Uzziah, they must take notice, and it is agreed by interpreters, and it is undeniably true, that the prophecies of Isaiah, as also of the other prophets, are not set down in the same order in which they were delivered, but oftentimes the latter are put before the former.

In your presence; which your eyes shall see to torment you, when there is no power in your hands to deliver you.

As overthrown by strangers, Heb, as the overthrow of strangers, i.e. which strangers bring upon a land which is not theirs, nor likely to continue in their hands, and therefore they spare no persons that come in their way, and they spoil and destroy all things, which is not usually done in wars between persons of the same or of a neighbour nation. Your country is desolate,.... Or "shall be"; this is either a declaration in proper terms of what is before figuratively expressed, or rather a prophecy of what would be their case on account of transgressions; and which had its accomplishment partly in the Babylonish captivity, and fully in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; when not only their city and temple, called their house, Matthew 23:38, were left unto them desolate, but the whole land; and they were carried captive, and scattered among the nations, where they have been ever since:

your cities are, or shall be,

burned with fire; as, Jerusalem has been, and other cities in Judea, Matthew 22:7.

your land, strangers devour it in your presence; before their eyes, and it would not be in their power to prevent it; meaning either the Babylonians or the Romans, or both, and especially the latter, who were strangers and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel:

and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers; who ravage, plunder, and destroy all they meet with, and spare nothing, not intending to settle there, as those who are near do, when they conquer a neighbouring nation. Some think this prophecy was delivered in the times of Ahaz, and refers to the desolation in his time, 2 Chronicles 28:17 but rather, as Joel and Amos prophesied before Isaiah, he may refer to those desolating judgments, they speak of, by the locusts, caterpillars, and fire, Joel 1:4 but to consider the words as a prediction of what should be in after times seems best; and so the Arabic version reads the words, "your land shall be desolate, your cities shall be burnt with fire, and your country strangers shall devour before you"; or shall be as overthrown by strangers, being overflown with a flood or storm of rain; so Abendana (d).

(d) As if it was which signifies a flood, or overflowing of water, Habakkuk 3.10. to which sense Aben Ezra inclines; so Schultens in Job 24.8.

Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, foreigners devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by {n} foreigners.

(n) Meaning, of them who dwell far off, who because they look for no advantage of that which remains destroy all before them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. The situation here described (which was undoubtedly present at the time of utterance) is that of a land ravaged by foreign troops (land is “cultivated land”). It has been contended that the word strangers (foreigners) must refer to the Assyrians, and could not be used of the allied Syrians and Ephraimites. But there seems no good reason why an army mainly composed of Syrians should not be designated as “foreigners.”

and it is desolate … strangers] Lit., “and a desolation like an overthrow of strangers.” If the text is sound it must mean “is such an overthrow as might be expected at the hands of strangers” (the so-called Kaph veritatis). This is a weak sense; and hence Ewald’s plausible emendation, “like the overthrow of Sodom,” has been accepted by most subsequent writers. The word for “overthrow” never occurs elsewhere except in connexion with Sodom (ch. Isaiah 13:19; Deuteronomy 29:23; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40; Amos 4:11).Verse 7. - Your country is desolate. Metaphor is now dropped, and the prophet describes in strong but simple language the judgments of God, which have already followed the sins of the nation. First of all, their land is "a desolation." It has been recently ravaged by an enemy; the towns have been burnt, the crops devoured. There is nothing to determine who the enemy had been. Knobel supposes the Edomites and Philistines, who invaded Judaea in the time of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:17, 18), to be intended; Rosenmüller suggests the Israelites under Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:21-24); while Mr. Cheyne supposes the devastation to have been wrought by the Assyrians under Sargon. If we could be assured that the prophecies of Isaiah are arranged in chronological order, we should either have to accept Rosenmüller's view, or to suppose some invasion of Judaea to have taken place in the later years of Uzziah of which no mention is made by the authors of Kings and Chronicles; but it is impossible to be certain on what principle Isaiah's prophecies are arranged. The mention of "strangers" is in favor of the enemy having been actual foreigners, and therefore not the Israelites. Your cities are burned with fire. The common fate of cities taken in war. In the Assyrian sculptures we often see the torch applied to them. Your land. Mr. Cheyne translates, "your tillage." Adamah means "soil" or "ground" generally; but here no doubt denotes the ground which bore crops. Strangers devour it; i.e. "foreigners" others than the sons of the soil - not necessarily persons of a different race, but still probably such persons. In your presence; before your eyes, as you look on - an aggravation of the affliction. It is desolate, as overthrown by strangers; literally, it is a desolation, like an overthrow by strangers. The near approach to repetition displeases moderns, who conjecture

(1) that zarim, strangers, has another meaning, and should be here translated by "inundation" or "deluge" (Aben Ezra, Michaelis, Lowth); or

(2) that it is a wrong reading, and should Be altered into sodim, a word not very different (Ewald, Cheyne). But "the return to words whose sounds are yet lingering in the ear" is characteristic of ancient writing, and a favorite practice of Isaiah's (Kay). The translation of the Authorized Version may therefore stand. What I have said here on Isaiah 1:1 as the heading to the whole book, or at any rate to Isaiah 1-39, has been said in part by Photios also in his Amphilochia, which Sophocles the M.D. has published complete from a MS of Mount Athos (Athens 1858, 4).

Isaiah 1:1Title of the collection, as given in Isaiah 1:1 : "Seeing of Jesha'-yahu, son of Amoz, which he saw over Judah and Jerusalem in the days of 'Uzziyahu, Jotham, Ahaz, and Yehizkiyahu, the kings of Judah." Isaiah is called the "son of Amoz." There is no force in the old Jewish doctrine (b. Megilla 15a), which was known to the fathers, that whenever the name of a prophet's father is given, it is a proof that the father was also a prophet. And we are just as incredulous about another old tradition, to the effect that Amoz was the brother of Amaziah, the father and predecessor of Uzziah (b. Sota 10b). There is some significance in this tradition, however, even if it is not true. There is something royal in the nature and bearing of Isaiah throughout. He speaks to kings as if he himself were a king. He confronts with majesty the magnates of the nation and of the imperial power. In his peculiar style, he occupies the same place among the prophets as Solomon among the kings. Under all circumstances, and in whatever state of mind, he is completely master of his materials - simple, yet majestic in his style - elevated, yet without affectation - and beautiful, though unadorned. But this regal character had its roots somewhere else than in the blood. All that can be affirmed with certainty is, that Isaiah was a native of Jerusalem; for notwithstanding his manifold prophetic missions, we never find him outside Jerusalem. There he lived with his wife and children, and, as we may infer from Isaiah 22:1, and the mode of his intercourse with king Hezekiah, down in the lower city. And there he laboured under the four kings named in Isaiah 1:1, viz., Uzziah (who reigned 52 years, 811-759), Jotham (16 years, 759-743), Ahaz (16 years, 743-728), and Hezekiah (29 years, 728-699). The four kings are enumerated without a Vav cop.; there is the same asyndeton enumerativum as in the titles to the books of Hosea and Micah. Hezekiah is there called Yehizkiyah, the form being almost the same as ours, with the simple elision of the concluding sound. The chronicler evidently preferred the fullest form, at the commencement as well as the termination. Roorda imagines that the chronicler derived this ill-shaped form from the three titles, were it is a copyist's error for וחזקיּהוּ or וחזקיּה; but the estimable grammarian has overlooked the fact that the same form is found in Jeremiah 15:4 and 2 Kings 20:10, where no such error of the pen can have occurred. Moreover, it is not an ill-shaped form, if, instead of deriving it from the piel, as Roorda does, we derive it from the kal of the verb "strong is Jehovah," an imperfect noun with a connecting i, which is frequently met with in proper names from verbal roots, such as Jesimil from sim, 1 Chronicles 4:36 : vid., Olshausen, 277, p. 621). Under these four kings Isaiah laboured, or, as it is expressed in Isaiah 1:1, saw the sight which is committed to writing in the book before us.

Of all the many Hebrew synonyms for seeing, חזה (cf., Cernere, κρίνειν, and the Sanscrit and Persian kar, which is founded upon the radical notion of cutting and separating) is the standing general expression used to denote prophetic perception, whether the form in which the divine revelation was made to the prophet was in vision or by word. In either case he saw it, because he distinguished this divine revelation from his own conceptions and thoughts by means of that inner sense, which is designated by the name of the noblest of all the five external senses. From this verb Chazah there came both the abstract Chazon, seeing, and the more concrete Chizzayon, a sight (visum), which is a stronger from of Chizyon (from Chazi equals Chazah). The noun Chazon is indeed used to denote a particular sight (comp. Isaiah 29:7 with Job 20:8; Job 33:15), inasmuch as it consists in seeing (visio); but here in the title of the book of Isaiah the abstract meaning passes over into the collective idea of the sight or vision in all its extent, i.e., the sum and substance of all that was seen. It is a great mistake, therefore, for any one to argue from the use of the word Chazon (vision), that Isaiah 1:1 was originally nothing more than the heading to the first prophecy, and that it was only by the addition of Isaiah 1:1 that it received the stamp of a general title to the whole book. There is no force in the argument. Moreover, the chronicler knew the book of Isaiah by this title (2 Chronicles 32:32); and the titles of other books of prophecy, such as Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Zephaniah, are very similar. A more plausible argument in favour of the twofold origin of Isaiah 1:1 has been lately repeated by Schegg and Meier, namely, that whilst "Judah and Jerusalem" are appropriate enough as defining the object of the first prophecy, the range is too limited to apply to all the prophecies that follow; since their object is not merely Judah, including Jerusalem, but they are also directed against foreign nations, and at chapter 7 the king of Israel, including Samaria, also comes within the horizon of the prophet's vision. And in the title to the book of Micah, both kingdoms are distinctly named. But it was necessary there, inasmuch as Micah commences at once with the approaching overthrow of Samaria. Here the designation is a central one. Even, according to the well-known maxims a potiori, and a proximo, fit denominatio, it would not be unsuitable; but Judah and Jerusalem are really and essentially the sole object of the prophet's vision. For within the largest circle of the imperial powers there lies the smaller one of the neighbouring nations; and in this again, the still more limited one of all Israel, including Samaria; and within this the still smaller one of the kingdom of Judah. And all these circles together form the circumference of Jerusalem, since the entire history of the world, so far as its inmost pragmatism and its ultimate goal were concerned, was the history of the church of God, which had for its peculiar site the city of the temple of Jehovah, and of the kingdom of promise. The expression "concerning Judah and Jerusalem" is therefore perfectly applicable to the whole book, in which all that the prophet sees is seen from Judah - Jerusalem as a centre, and seen for the sake and in the interests of both. The title in Isaiah 1:1 may pass without hesitation as the heading written by the prophet's own hand. This is admitted not only by Caspari (Micah, pp. 90-93), but also by Hitzig and Knobel. But if Isaiah 1:1 contains the title to the whole book, where is the heading to the first prophecy? Are we to take אשׁר as a nominative instead of an accusative (qui instead of quam, sc. visionem), as Luzzatto does? This is a very easy way of escaping from the difficulty, and stamping Isaiah 1:1 as the heading to the first prophetic words in Chapter 1; but it is unnatural, as חזון אשׁר חזה, according to Ges. (138, note 1), is the customary form in Hebrew of connecting the verb with its own substantive. The real answer is simple enough. The first prophetic address is left intentionally without a heading, just because it is the prologue to all the rest; and the second prophetic address has a heading in Isaiah 2:1, although it really does not need one, for the purpose of bringing out more sharply the true character of the first as the prologue to the whole.

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