Isaiah 10:8
For he said, Are not my princes altogether kings?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Are not my princes altogether kings?—So Tiglath-pileser names the twenty-three kings (Ahaz and Pekah among them) who came to do homage and pay tribute at Damascus (Records of the Past, v. 5-26).

Isaiah 10:8-10. For he saith, Are not my princes, &c. — Are they not equal for power, and wealth, and glory, to the kings of other nations, though they be my subjects and servants? Is not Calno as Carchemish? — Have I not conquered one place as well as another, the stronger as well as the weaker? Have I not from time to time added new conquests to the old? None of those cities, against which he had turned his arms, had been able to resist him; but he had subjugated them all. Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, and Arpad, were cities of Syria and Israel, which this mighty monarch had subdued. Is not Samaria — Or, Shall not Samaria be, as Damascus? — Shall I not take that as I have done this city? For although Damascus, possibly, was not yet taken by the Assyrians, yet the prophet speaks of it as actually taken, because these words are prophetically delivered, and supposed to be uttered by the king of Assyria, at or about the time of the siege of Samaria, when Damascus was taken. As my hand hath found — Hath taken, as this word is often used, the kingdoms of the idols — Which worshipped their own idols, and vainly imagined that they could protect them from my power. He calls the gods of the nations, not excepting Jerusalem, idols, by way of contempt, because none of them could deliver their people out of his hands, and because he judged them to be but petty gods, far inferior to the sun, which was the god of the Assyrians. Whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem — Namely, in reputation and power. Which blasphemy of his proceeded from his deep ignorance of the true God.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?For he saith - This verse, and the subsequent verses to Isaiah 10:11, contain the vaunting of the king of Assyria, and the descriptions of his own confidence of success.

Are not my princes altogether kings? - This is a confident boast of his "own" might and power. His own dominion was so great that even his princes were endowed with the ordinary power and "regalia" of kings. The word "princes," may here refer either to those of his own family and court - to the satraps and officers of power in his army, or around his throne: or more probably, it may refer to the subordinate governors whom he had set over the provinces which he had conquered. 'Are they not clothed with royal power and majesty? Are they not of equal splendor with the other monarchs at the earth?' How great, then, must have been his "own" rank and glory to be placed "over" such illustrious sovereigns! It will be recollected, that a common title which oriental monarchs give themselves, is that of King of kings; see Ezekiel 26:7; Daniel 2:37; Ezra 7:12. The oriental princes are still distinguished for their sounding titles, and particularly for their claiming dominion over all other princes, and the supremacy over all other earthly powers.

8-11. Vauntings of the Assyrians. Illustrated by the self-laudatory inscriptions of Assyria deciphered by Hincks.

princes … kings—Eastern satraps and governors of provinces often had the title and diadem of kings. Hence the title, "King of kings," implying the greatness of Him who was over them (Eze 26:7; Ezr 7:12).

Equal for power, and wealth, and glory to the kings of other nations, though my subjects and servants. For he saith, are not my princes altogether kings? Meaning either the kings which he had conquered, which were become his princes and subjects; or rather, such were the greatness and glory of his nobles, that they were equal in their riches and dominions to kings, and so were able to furnish him with men and money for such an expedition he had in his heart to undertake, even to conquer and subdue all the nations of the earth: and this he said either to his people, boasting of his grandeur; or in his heart, as Kimchi observes, to encourage himself; or rather more openly before others, in order to discourage and inject terror into the nations he meant to destroy, and particularly the inhabitants of Jerusalem. For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. Are not my officers altogether kings?] Many of them really were subjugated kings (2 Kings 25:28), and any one of them excelled in dignity the petty sovereigns of the independent states (see ch. Isaiah 36:9). The title “King of Kings” (Ezekiel 26:7) was already assumed by Assyrian monarchs.

8–11. The first speech of the Assyrian.Verse 8. - Are not my princes altogether kings? One mark of the superiority of Assyria to other countries was to be seen in the fact that her king had not mere officers, but vassal kings under him. Hence the title "king of kings" assumed by so many Assyrian monarchs. While conquered territories were by degrees and to a certain extent absorbed into the empire and placed under prefects (see the 'Eponym Canon'), an outer zone of more loosely organized dependencies was always maintained by the Assyrians; and these dependencies continued ordinarily to be administered by their native monarchs (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. pp. 524-526). These are the "princes" who were "altogether kings." Strophe 4. "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers who prepare trouble to force away the needy from demanding justice, and to rob the suffering of my people of their rightful claims, that widows may become their prey, and they plunder orphans! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the storm that cometh from afar? To whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye deposit your glory? There is nothing left but to bow down under prisoners, and they fall under the slain. With all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still." This last strophe is directed against the unjust authorities and judges. The woe pronounced upon them is, as we have already frequently seen, Isaiah's Ceterum censeo. Châkak is their decisive decree (not, however, in a denominative sense, but in the primary sense of hewing in, recording in official documents, Isaiah 30:8; Job 19:23); and Cittēb (piel only occurring here, and a perfect, according to Gesenius, 126, 3) their official signing and writing. Their decrees are Chikekē 'aven (an open plural, as in Judges 5:15, for Chukkē, after the analogy of גללי, עממי, with an absolute Chăkâkim underlying it: Ewald, 186-7), inasmuch as their contents were worthlessness, i.e., the direct opposite of morality; and what they wrote out was ‛âmâl, trouble, i.e., an unjust oppression of the people (compare πόνος and πονηρός).

(Note: The current accentuation, ומכתבים mercha, עמל tiphchah, is wrong. The true accentuation would be the former with tiphchah (and metheg), the latter with mercha; for ‛âmâl cittēbu is an attributive (an elliptical relative) clause. According to its etymon, ‛âmâl seems to stand by the side of μῶλος, moles, molestus (see Pott in Kuhn's Zeitschrift, ix. 202); but within the Semitic itself it stands by the side of אמל, to fade, marcescere, which coincides with the Sanscrit root mlâ and its cognates (see Leo Meyer, Vergleichende Grammatik, i. 353), so that ‛âmâl is, strictly speaking, to wear out or tire out (vulg. to worry).)

Poor persons who wanted to commence legal proceedings were not even allowed to do so, and possessions to which widows and orphans had a well-founded claim were a welcome booty to them (for the diversion into the finite verb, see Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 8:11; Isaiah 49:5; Isaiah 58:5). For all this they could not escape the judgment of God. This is announced to them in Isaiah 10:3, in the form of three distinct questions (commencing with ūmâh, quid igitur). The noun pekuddah in the first question always signifies simply a visitation of punishment; sho'âh is a confused, dull, desolate rumbling, hence confusion (turba), desolation: here it is described as "coming from afar," because a distant nation (Asshur) was the instrument of God's wrath. Second question: "Upon whom will ye throw yourselves in your search for help then" (nūs ‛al, a constr. praegnans, only met with here)? Third question: "Where, i.e., in whose hand, will ye deposit your wealth in money and possessions" (câbōd, what is weighty in value and imposing in appearance); ‛âzab with b'yad (Genesis 39:6), or with Lamed (Job 39:14), to leave anything with a person as property in trust. No one would relieve them of their wealth, and hold it as a deposit; it was irrecoverably lost. To this negative answer there is appended the following bilti, which, when used as a preposition after a previous negation, signifies praeter; when used as a conjunction, nisi (bilti 'im, Judges 7:14); and where it governs the whole sentence, as in this case, nisi quod (cf., Numbers 11:6; Daniel 11:18). In the present instance, where the previous negation is to be supplied in thought, it has the force of nil reliquum est nisi quod (there is nothing left but). The singular verb (câra‛) is used contemptuously, embracing all the high persons as one condensed mass; and tachath does not mean aeque ac or loco (like, or in the place of), as Ewald (217, k) maintains, but is used in the primary and local sense of infra (below). Some crouch down to find room at the feet of the prisoners, who are crowded closely together in the prison; or if we suppose the prophet to have a scene of transportation in his mind, they sink down under the feet of the other prisoners, in their inability to bear such hardships, whilst the rest fall in war; and as the slaughter is of long duration, not only become corpses themselves, but are covered with corpses of the slain (cf., Isaiah 14:19). And even with this the wrath of God is not satisfied. The prophet, however, does not follow out the terrible gradation any further. Moreover, the captivity, to which this fourth strophe points, actually formed the conclusion of a distinct period.

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