Isaiah 10:5
O Assyrian, the rod of my anger, and the staff in their hand is my indignation.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) O Assyrian.—The words open, as has been said above, a perfectly distinct section. Assyria had been named in connection with the Syro-Ephraim alliance against Judah (Isaiah 7:17-20; Isaiah 8:7-8); but this is the first prophetic utterance of which it is the direct subject. Anticipating the phraseology of Isaiah 13:1, we might call it the “burden of Assyria.” In the judgment of the best Assyrian scholars, some years had passed since the date of the alliance and invasion. Tiglath – pileser had taken Damascus and reduced Samaria to submission. Pekah and Ahaz had met at Damascus to do homage to their common suzerain. In B.C. 727 Salmaneser succeeded to the throne of Assyria, and began the conquest of Samaria and the deportation of the Ten Tribes in B.C. 722 (2Kings 17:3-6). On his death, in B.C. 721, the throne was seized by Sargon, who had been his Tartan, or commander-in-chief (Isaiah 20:1). The achievements of this king are recorded at length in an inscription discovered by M. Botta at Khorsabad (Records of the Past, vii. 28. Lenormant’s Manual, 1 p. 392). In it he says:—“I besieged, took, and occupied the city of Samaria, and carried into captivity 27,280 of its inhabitants. I changed the form of government of the country, and placed over it lieutenants of my own.” In another inscription discovered at Kouyunyik, but unfortunately incomplete, Sargon speaks of himself as “the conqueror of the far-off land of Judah” (Layard, Inscriptions, 33:8). It was probably to this king, exulting in his triumphs and threatening an attack on Judah, and not (as was commonly thought prior to the discovery of the inscription) to his son Sennacherib, who succeeded him B.C. 704, that the prophet now addressed himself. The first words proclaim that the great king was but an instrument working out the Divine intent, the “rod,” and the “staff,” the “axe” and the “saw” (Isaiah 10:15). So in Isaiah 7:20, the earlier king of Assyria is as “the razor that is hired.” So Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah 51:20 is the “battle-axe” or “hammer” of Jehovah. (Comp. Isaiah 37:26.)

Isaiah 10:5. O Assyrian, &c. — We have here the fourth section of the fifth sermon, which reaches to the end of this chapter, and which is two-fold; containing, 1st, A proposition in this verse; and, 2d, The unfolding of it in the following verses. It is a new and distinct prophecy, and, as the former part of it foretels the invasion of Sennacherib and the destruction of his army, it must have been delivered before the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign. “In the former chapters the prophet had foretold the fate of the Ephraimites and Syrians, who had determined to attack, and, if possible, subvert the Jewish Church and state. He therefore now turns his discourse to the Assyrians, the executors of this judgment, who also in their time should make the same attempt against Judea, and denounces their punishment, teaching, at the same time, in what light they were held by God, and consequently were to be considered by the careful observers of the ways of God. The proposition in this verse is elegant, but very difficult to be turned into another language, according to its original force. Its immediate meaning is, ‘Wo to the Assyrian, who is the rod of mine anger, and the staff, which is in his hands, is my severity;’ that is, ‘whatever strength or power they have, which they have used in afflicting my people, would have been none at all, if my people had not provoked my wrath and severity; so that, not the Assyrians themselves, but my wrath and severity, and the decrees of my justice, ought to be esteemed the rod and staff beating my people; since, without that severity, the Assyrians themselves could have done nothing.’ Vitringa remarks, that all the characters of this prophecy belong to Sennacherib; though possibly it may have a more extensive scope, and refer to the destruction of all the enemies of God, and the following great empires, which God made use of as rods and scourges, to chastise and amend his people, till the manifestation of the kingdom of his Son in the world: see Jeremiah 51:20.” — Dodd. Be this as it will, the prophet here instructs us in a great and important truth: “That God often prospers wicked and tyrannical governments to be his scourge and the instruments of his vengeance upon others; and when they have done the work which God allots them, he then punishes them for those very oppressions which they have exercised toward their neighbours, and to which they were carried on purely by their own ambition and covetousness, although Providence made them serviceable to better ends and purposes.” — Lowth.10:5-19 See what a change sin made. The king of Assyria, in his pride, thought to act by his own will. The tyrants of the world are tools of Providence. God designs to correct his people for their hypocrisy, and bring them nearer to him; but is that Sennacherib's design? No; he designs to gratify his own covetousness and ambition. The Assyrian boasts what great things he has done to other nations, by his own policy and power. He knows not that it is God who makes him what he is, and puts the staff into his hand. He had done all this with ease; none moved the wing, or cried as birds do when their nests are rifled. Because he conquered Samaria, he thinks Jerusalem would fall of course. It was lamentable that Jerusalem should have set up graven images, and we cannot wonder that she was excelled in them by the heathen. But is it not equally foolish for Christians to emulate the people of the world in vanities, instead of keeping to things which are their special honour? For a tool to boast, or to strive against him that formed it, would not be more out of the way, than for Sennacherib to vaunt himself against Jehovah. When God brings his people into trouble, it is to bring sin to their remembrance, and humble them, and to awaken them to a sense of their duty; this must be the fruit, even the taking away of sin. When these points are gained by the affliction, it shall be removed in mercy. This attempt upon Zion and Jerusalem should come to nothing. God will be as a fire to consume the workers of iniquity, both soul and body. The desolation should be as when a standard-bearer fainteth, and those who follow are put to confusion. Who is able to stand before this great and holy Lord God?O Assyrian - The word הוי hôy, is commonly used to denounce wrath, or to indicate approaching calamity; as an interjection of threatening; Isaiah 1:4. 'Wo sinful nation;' Isaiah 10:8, Isaiah 10:11, Isaiah 10:18, Isaiah 10:20-21; Jeremiah 48:1; Ezekiel 13:2. The Vulgate so understands it here: Vae Assur; and the Septuagint, Οὐαι Ἀσσυρίοις Ouai Assuriois - 'Woe to the Assyrians.' So the Chaldee and the Syriac. It is not then a simple address to the Assyrian; but a form denouncing wrath on the invader. Yet it was not so much designed to intimidate and appal the Assyrian himself as to comfort the Jews with the assurance that calamity should overtake him. The 'Assyrian' referred to here was the king of Assyria - Sennacherib, who was leading an army to invade the land of Judea.

The rod of mine anger - That is, the rod, or instrument, by which I will inflict punishment on a guilty nation. The Hebrew would bear the interpretation that the Assyrian was, an object against which God was angry; but the former is evidently the sense of the passage, as denoting that the Assyrian was the agent by which he would express his anger against a guilty people. Woe might be denounced against him for his wicked intention, at the same time that God might design to make use of his plans to punish the sins of his own people. The word "anger" here, refers to the indignation of God against the sins of the Jewish people.

And the staff - The word "staff" here, is synonymous with rod, as an instrument of chastisement or punishment; Isaiah 9:4; compare Isaiah 10:24; Nahum 1:13; Ezekiel 7:10.

In their hand - There has been considerable variety in the interpretation of this passage. Lowth and Noyes read it, 'The staff in whose hand is the instrument of my indignation.' This interpretation Lowth adopts, by omitting the word הוא hû' on the authority of the Alexandrine copy of the Septuagint, and five manuscripts, two of them ancient. Jerome reads it, 'Wo to the Assyrian! He is the staff and the rod of my fury; in their hand is my indignation.' So Forerius, Ludovicus, de Dieu, Cocceius, and others. Vitringa reads it, 'And in the hands of those who are my rod is my indignation.' Schmidius and Rosenmuller, 'And the rod which is in their hands, is the rod of mine indignation.' There is no necessity for any change in the text. The Hebrew, literally, is, 'Wo to the Assyrian! Rod of my anger! And he is the staff. In their hands is my indignation.' The sense is sufficiently clear, that the Assyrian was appointed to inflict punishmerit on a rebellious people, as the instrument of God. The Chaldee renders it, 'Wo to the Assyrian! The dominion (power, ruler) of my fury, and the angel sent from my face, against them, for a malediction. Septuagint, 'And wrath in their hands.'

In their hand - In the hand of the Assyrians, where the word 'Assyrian' is taken as referring to the king of Assyria, as the representative of the nation.

Isa 10:5-34 and Isa 11:12. Destruction of the Assyrians; Coming of Messiah; Hymn of Praise.

Isa 10:9, 11 show that Samaria was destroyed before this prophecy. It was written when Assyria proposed (a design which it soon after tried to carry out under Sennacherib) to destroy Judah and Jerusalem, as it had destroyed Samaria. This is the first part of Isaiah's prophecies under Hezekiah. Probably between 722 and 715 B.C. (see Isa 10:27).

5. O Assyrian, &c.—rather, "What, ho (but Maurer, Woe to the) Assyrian! He is the rod and staff of Mine anger (My instrument in punishing, Jer 51:20; Ps 17:13). In their hands is Mine indignation" [Horsley, after Jerome]. I have put into the Assyrians' hands the execution of Mine indignation against My people.

O Assyrian: so it is God’s call or invitation to him to take the charge, and set upon the work. Or, Woe to the Assyrian! because though he do my work, yet he doth it in a wicked manner, and for wicked ends, as we shall see.

The rod of mine anger; the instrument of mine anger. wherewith I shall chastise my people.

The staff in their hand is mine indignation; mine anger against my people puts the weapons of war into their hand, and gives them strength and success in this expedition. O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger,..... Either as calling him to come against the land of Israel to spoil it, so Kimchi; or as grieving that he was obliged to make use of him in such a manner against his people; or as threatening him with ruin. So the Targum, Septuagint, and all the Oriental versions render it, "woe to the Assyrian"; wherefore this, and what follows, serve to comfort the people of God; that though they should be carried captive by the Assyrians, yet they should be utterly destroyed, and a remnant of the Jews should be saved. The Assyrian monarch is called the "rod of God's anger", because he was made use of by him as an instrument to chastise and correct Israel for their sins:

and the staff in their hand is mine indignation; that is, the staff which was in the hand of the king of Assyria, and his army, with which they smote the people of Israel, was no other than the wrath and indignation of God against that people, and the execution of it, which he committed to them as instruments. Kimchi interprets "their hand" of the land of Israel, into which this staff was sent, the Assyrian, to smite and chastise them. The Targum is,

"woe to the Assyrian, the government of my fury; and an angel sent from before me against them for a curse.''

O {e} Assyrian, the rod of my anger, and the staff in their hand is my indignation.

(e) God calls for the Assyrians to be the executioners of his vengeance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. O Assyrian] Ho Asshur, the name both of the people and its national god. The god being little more than the personified genius of the nation, we might almost venture to suppose that he is here directly addressed and is the speaker in Isaiah 10:8 ff. But the word is never used of the god in the O.T.

the rod of mine anger] the instrument with which Jehovah chastises the nations, cf. Jeremiah 51:20.

and the staff … indignation] lit. “and a staff, it is in their hand, my indignation,”—an absolutely refractory clause. Driver (Tenses § 201, 1, Obs.) translates “and a staff is it in their hand, [viz.] mine indignation.” But to say in one line that Assyria is the rod of Jehovah’s anger and in the next that His indignation is a staff in their hand is awkward in the extreme. Better a “flat tautology” than that, although the objection is meaningless as applied to a synonymous parallelism. It is best to omit the words “it is in their hand” as a gloss and render and the staff of mine indignation.

5–7. Jehovah’s plan contrasted with Assyria’s purpose.Verses 5-19. - ASSYRIA, AFTER BEING GOD'S INSTRUMENT TO PUNISH ISRAEL, SHALL HERSELF BE PUNISHED IN HER TURN. The wicked are a sword in the hand of God (Psalm 17:13), wherewith he executes his judgments; but this fact is hid from them, and they imagine that they are successful through their own strength and might. So it was with Assyria (vers. 5-14), which its long career of victory had made proud and arrogant above measure. God now, by the mouth of Isaiah, makes known his intention of bringing down the pride of Assyria, and laying her glory in the dust, by a sudden and great destruction (vers. 15:19), after she has served his purposes. Verse 5. - O Assyrian; literally, Ho! Asshur. "Asshur" is the nation personified, and is here addressed as an individual. The transition from vers. 1-4 is abrupt, and may be taken to indicate an accidental juxtaposition of two entirely distinct prophecies. Or Assyria may be supposed to have been in the prophet's thought, though not in his words, when he spoke of "prisoners" and "slain" in the first clause of ver. 4. The rod of mine anger (comp. Jeremiah 51:20, where it is said of Babylon, "Thou art my battle-axe and weapons of war; for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy the kingdoms"). So Assyria was now the "rod" wherewith God chastised his enemies. The true "staff" in the hand of Assyria, wherewith she smote the peoples, was "God's indignation." Strophe 3. "For the wickedness burneth up like fire: it devours thorns and thistles, and burns in the thickets of the wood; and they smoke upwards in a lofty volume of smoke. Through the wrath of Jehovah of hosts the land is turned into coal, and the nation has become like the food of fire: not one spares his brother. They hew on the right, and are hungry; and devour on the left, and are not satisfied: they devour the flesh of their own arm: Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: these together over Judah. With all this His anger is not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still." The standpoint of the prophet is at the extreme end of the course of judgment, and from that he looks back. Consequently this link of the chain is also past in his view, and hence the future conversives. The curse, which the apostasy of Israel carries within itself, now breaks fully out. Wickedness, i.e., the constant thirst of evil, is a fire which a man kindles in himself. And when the grace of God, which damps and restrains this fire, is all over, it is sure to burst forth: the wickedness bursts forth like fire (the verb is used here, as in Isaiah 30:27, with reference to the wrath of God). And this is the case with the wickedness of Israel, which now consumes first of all thorns and thistles, i.e., individual sinners who are the most ripe for judgment, upon whom the judgment commences, and then the thicket of the wood (sib-che,

(Note: The metheg (gaya) in סבכי (to be pronounced sib-che) has simply the caphonic effect of securing a distinct enunciation to the sibilant letter (in other instances to the guttural, vid., ‛arboth, Numbers 31:12), in cases where the second syllable of the word commences with a guttural or labial letter, or with an aspirate.)

as in Isaiah 10:34, from sebac, Genesis 22:13 equals sobec), that is to say, the great mass of the people, which is woven together by bands of iniquity (vattizzath is not a reflective niphal, as in 2 Kings 22:13, but kal, to kindle into anything, i.e., to set it on fire). The contrast intended in the two figures is consequently not the high and low (Ewald), nor the useless and useful (Drechsler), but individuals and the whole (Vitringa). The fire, into which the wickedness bursts out, seizes individuals first of all; and then, like a forest fire, it seizes upon the nation at large in all its ranks and members, who "whirl up (roll up) ascending of smoke," i.e., who roll up in the form of ascending smoke (hith'abbek, a synonym of hithhappēk, Judges 7:13, to curl or roll). This fire of wickedness was no other than the wrath (ebrâh) of God: it is God's own wrath, for all sin carries this within itself as its own self-punishment. By this fire of wrath the soil of the land is gradually but thoroughly burnt out, and the people of the land utterly consumed: עתם ἁπ λεγ to be red-hot (lxx συγκέκαυται, also the Targum), and to be dark or black (Arabic ‛atame, late at night), for what is burnt out becomes black. Fire and darkness are therefore correlative terms throughout the whole of the Scriptures. So far do the figures extend, in which the prophet presents the inmost essence of this stage of judgment. In its historical manifestation it consisted in the most inhuman self-destruction during an anarchical civil war. Destitute of any tender emotions, they devoured one another without being satisfied: gâzar, to cut, to hew (hence the Arabic for a butcher): zero'o, his arm, according to Jeremiah 19:9, equivalent to the member of his own family and tribe, who was figuratively called his arm (Arabic ‛adud: see Ges. Thes. p. 433), as being the natural protector and support. This interminable self-immolation, and the regicide associated with the jealousy of the different tribes, shook the northern kingdom again and again to its utter destruction. And the readiness with which the unbrotherly feelings of the northern tribes towards one another could turn into combined hostility towards Judah, was evident enough from the Syro-Ephraimitish war, the consequences of which had not passed away at the time when these prophecies were uttered. This hostility on the part of the brother kingdoms would still further increase. And the end of the judgments of wrath had not come yet.

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