Isaiah 14:31
Howl, O gate; cry, O city; you, whole Palestina, are dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) Howl, O gate . . .—The “gate,” as elsewhere, is the symbol of the city’s strength. The “citystands probably for Ashdod, as the most conspicuous of the Philistine cities.

From the north.—Here of the Assyrian invaders, as in Jeremiah 1:14; Jeremiah 10:22; Jeremiah 46:20 of the Chaldean. The “smoke” may be either that of the cities which the Assyrians burnt, or, more probably, the torch-signals, or beacons, which they used in their night marches or encampments (Jeremiah 6:1; Jeremiah 1:2). (See Note on Isaiah 4:5.)

None shall be alone in his appointed times.—Better, there is no straggler at the appointed places: i.e., all the troops shall meet at the rendezvous which was indicated by the column of fiery smoke as a signal.

Isaiah 14:31. Howl, O gate — O people, who used to pass through the gates; cry, O city — O inhabitants of the city; or city may be put collectively for all their cities. Thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved — Hebrew, נמוג, art melted, which may be understood, either of the faintness of their spirits and courage, or of the dissolution of their state; there shall come from the north a smoke — A grievous judgment, or calamity, often signified by smoke, as Genesis 15:17; Joel 2:30; both because smoke is generally accompanied with fire, and because it darkens the air, and afflictions are frequently signified by fire and darkness. Many interpreters understand the prophet as speaking here of the calamity brought on the Philistines by Hezekiah, foretold in the preceding verses, observing that Judea lay to the north of some parts of Palestine. But certainly it lay more to the east than north of the greater part of that country: and accordingly, the Scriptures generally speak of the Philistines as being to the west of the Jews: see Isaiah 11:14. It seems, therefore, that Chaldea, and not Judea, is here meant by the north, as it generally is in the writings of the prophets; and that the calamity intended is not that spoken of in Isaiah 14:29-30, but a new affliction to be brought upon them by the Assyrians or Babylonians: probably the same which Jeremiah predicted as coming from the north on the Philistines, Jeremiah 47:2, &c. And none shall be alone in his appointed times — When God’s appointed time shall come, not one of all that numerous army that shall invade Palestine, shall desert his colours, lag behind the rest, or withdraw his hand, till the work of destruction be finished. 14:28-32 Assurance is given of the destruction of the Philistines and their power, by famine and war. Hezekiah would be more terrible to them than Uzziah had been. Instead of rejoicing, there would be lamentation, for the whole land would be ruined. Such destruction will come upon the proud and rebellious, but the Lord founded Zion for a refuge to poor sinners, who flee from the wrath to come, and trust in his mercy through Christ Jesus. Let us tell all around of our comforts and security, and exhort them to seek the same refuge and salvation.Howl, O gate - That is, ye who throng the gate. The gates of a city were the chief places of concourse.

Cry, O city - The prophet here fixes the attention upon some principal city of Philistia, and calls upon it to be alarmed in view of the judgments that were about to come upon the whole land.

Art dissolved - The word 'dissolved' (מוג mûg) is applied to that which melts, or which wastes away gradually, and then to that which faints or disappears. It means here that the kingdom of Philistia would disappear, or be destroyed. It probably conveys the idea of its fainting, or becoming feeble from fear or apprehension.

From the north a smoke - From the regions of Judah, which lay north and east of Philistia. The 'smoke' here probably refers to a cloud of dust that would be seen to rise in that direction made by an invading army.

And none shall be alone in his appointed times - There has been a great variety of interpretation in regard to this passage. Lowth renders it, 'And there shall not be a straggler among his levies.' The Hebrew is, as in the margin, 'And not solitary in his assemblies.' The Septuagint renders it, Καί οὐκ ἔσται τοῦ εῖναι Kai ouk estai tou einai - 'And it is not to be endured.' The Chaldee, 'And there shall be none who shall retard him in his times.' The Arabic, 'Neither is there anyone who can stand in his footsteps.' The Vulgate, 'Neither is there anyone who can escape his army.' Aben Ezra renders it, 'No one of the Philistines shall dare to remain in their palaces, as when a smoke comes into a house all are driven out.' Probably the correct idea is given by Lowth; and the same interpretation is given by Gesenius, Rosenmuller, Dathe, and Michaelis. No one of the invading army of Hezekiah shall come by himself; no one shall be weary or be a straggler; the army shall advance in close military array, and in dense columns; and this is represented as the cause of the cloud or smoke that the prophet saw rising, the cloud of dust that was made by the close ranks of the invading host (compare Isaiah 5:27).

31. gate—that is, ye who throng the gate; the chief place of concourse in a city.

from … north—Judea, north and east of Palestine.

smoke—from the signal-fire, whereby a hostile army was called together; the Jews' signal-fire is meant here, the "pillar of cloud and fire," (Ex 13:21; Ne 9:19); or else from the region devastated by fire [Maurer]. Gesenius less probably refers it to the cloud of dust raised by the invading army.

none … alone … in … appointed times—Rather, "There shall not be a straggler among his (the enemy's) levies." The Jewish host shall advance on Palestine in close array; none shall fall back or lag from weariness (Isa 5:26, 27), [Lowth]. Maurer thinks the Hebrew will not bear the rendering "levies" or "armies." He translates, "There is not one (of the Philistine watch guards) who will remain alone (exposed to the enemy) at his post," through fright. On "alone," compare Ps 102:7; Ho 8:9.

O gate: the gate is put either,

1. Metaphorically, for the people passing through the gates, or for the magistrates and others who used to meet in the gate for judgment, or upon other occasions; or,

2. Synecdochically, for the city, as gates are commonly put, as Jeremiah 22:19, and as it is explained in the next words.

O city: city is here put collectively for their cities, of which see 1 Samuel 6:17.

Dissolved, Heb. melted; which may be understood either,

1. Of the fainting of their spirits and courage, as Exodus 15:15 Joshua 2:9,24, &c.; or, 2. Of the dissolution of their state.

From the north; either,

1. From Judea; which lay northward from some part of the Philistines’ land. But in truth Judea lay more east than north from Palestine, and therefore the Philistines are said to be on the west, Isaiah 11:14, and never, so far as I remember, on the north. Or,

2. From Chaldea. as may be gathered,

1. From the Scripture use of this phrase, which generally designs that country, as Jeremiah 1:14,15 6:1,22, &c.

2. From Jeremiah 47, where destruction is threatened to the Philistines from the north, Isaiah 14:2, which all understand of the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar. And whereas it is speciously objected, That this suits not with the next verse, which speaks of Zion’s safety at the time of this destruction of the Philistines, whereas Zion and the land and people of Judah were destroyed together with the Philistines by Nebuchadnezzar; I humbly conceive it may be answered, that that verse is added to express the far differing condition of God’s people and of the Philistines in the events of that Babylonian war; and that whereas the Philistines should be irrecoverably and eternally destroyed thereby, and no remnant of them should be left, as was said, Isaiah 14:30, God’s people, though they should be sorely scourged, and carried into captivity, yet they should be strangely preserved, and after some years delivered, and restored to their own land and temple; whereby it would appear that Zion stood upon a sure foundation, and, albeit it was grievously shaken, yet it could not be utterly and finally overthrown.

A smoke; a grievous judgment and calamity, which is oft signified by smoke, as Genesis 15:17 Deu 29:20 Joel 2:30, either because smoke is generally accompanied with fire, or because it causeth a great darkness in the air; for afflictions are frequently described under the names of fire and darkness. In his appointed times: when God’s appointed time shall come for the execution of this judgment, not one person of all that numerous army, which is signified by the smoke last mentioned, shall retire and desert his colours, or lag behind the rest; but they shall march with great unanimity and alacrity, and none of them shall withdraw his hand till the work be finished, till the Philistines be utterly destroyed. Howl, O gate,.... Or gates of the cities of Palestine; the magistrates that sat there to execute judgment, or the people that passed through there; or because now obliged to open to their enemies; wherefore, instead of rejoicing, they are called to howling:

cry, O city; or cities, the several cities of the land, as well as their chief, because of the destruction coming upon them. The Targum is,

"howl over thy gates, and cry over thy cities;''

or concerning them:

thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved; or "melted"; through fear of enemies coming upon them; or it may design the entire overthrow and dissolution of their state;

for there shall come from the north a smoke; a numerous army, raising a dust like smoke as they move along, and coming with great "swiftness", and very annoying. Some understand this of the Chaldean army under Nebuchadnezzar coming from Babylon, which lay north of Judea; so Aben Ezra; to which agrees Jeremiah 47:1 but most interpret it of Hezekiah's army, which came from Judea: which, Kimchi says, lay north to the land of the Philistines. Cocceius is of opinion that the Roman army is here meant, which came from the north against Judea, called whole Palestine; which country came into the hands of the Jews after the taking of Tyre and Gaza by the Greeks, and therefore the sanhedrim, which sat in the gate, and the city of Jerusalem, are called upon to howl and cry. But the first of these senses seems best, since the utter destruction of Palestine was by the Chaldean army under Nebuchadnezzar; and so the prophecy from the time of Hezekiah, with which it begins, is carried on unto the entire dissolution of this country by the Babylonians.

And none shall be alone in his appointed times; when the times appointed are come, for the gathering, mustering, and marching of the army, whether Hezekiah's or the Chaldean, none shall stay at home; all will voluntarily and cheerfully flock unto it, and enlist themselves; nor will they separate or stray from it, but march on unanimously, and courageously engage the enemy, till the victory is obtained. Aben Ezra understands this of the Philistines, that they should not be able to abide alone in their palaces and houses, because of the smoke that should come in unto them.

Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, all Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the {u} north a smoke, and none shall be {x} alone in his appointed times.

(u) That is, from the Jews or Assyrians: for they were brought to extreme misery.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
31. As in Isaiah 14:29 the prophet had rebuked the premature rejoicing of the Philistines, so here he calls them to public lamentation in view of the advancing enemy.

thou … art dissolved] Render as an imper. melt away, entire Philistia! Smoke may be either a symbol of war (Jeremiah 1:13 f.) or it may be a vivid picture of the burning villages that mark the track of the invader. The phrase from the north points almost unmistakeably to the Assyrians (see on ch. Isaiah 10:27).

none shall be … times] Most critics render: there is no straggler in his battalions (cf. ch. Isaiah 5:27). The last word closely resembles that for “appointed times,” but is differently vocalised, and does not occur elsewhere.Verse 31. - Howl, O gate; cry, O city. Each city of Philistia is hidden to howl and lament. All will suffer; not one will be spared. Art dissolved; literally, art melted; i.e. "faintest through fear" (comp. Joshua 2:9; Jeremiah 49:23). There shall come from the north a smoke. The "smoke" is the Assyrian host, which ravages the country as it advances, burning towns, and villages, and peasants' cots, and watchmen's towers. It enters the country "from the north," as a matter of course, where it adjoins upon Judaea. The coast route, which led through the Plain of Sharon, was that commonly followed by Egyptian armies. None shall be alone in his appointed times; rather, there shall be no straggler at the rendezvous. There now follows, apparently out of all connection, another prophecy against Asshur. It is introduced here quite abruptly, like a fragment; and it is an enigma how it got here, and what it means here, though not an enigma without solution. This short Assyrian passage reads as follows. "Jehovah of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, that takes place; to break Asshur to pieces in my land, and upon my mountain will I tread him under foot: then his yoke departs from them, and his burden will depart from their neck. This is the purpose that is purposed over the whole earth; and this the hand that is stretched out over all nations. For Jehovah of hosts hath purposed, and who could bring it to nought? And His hand that is stretched out, who can turn it back?" It is evidently a totally different judicial catastrophe which is predicted here, inasmuch as the world-power upon which it falls is not called Babel or Chasdim, but Asshur, which cannot possibly be taken as a name for Babylon (Abravanel, Lowth, etc.). Babylon is destroyed by the Medes, whereas Asshur falls to ruin in the mountain-land of Jehovah, which it is seeking to subjugate - a prediction which was literally fulfilled. And only when this had taken place did a fitting occasion present itself for a prophecy against Babel, the heiress of the ruined Assyrian power. Consequently the two prophecies against Babel and Asshur form a hysteron-proteron as they stand here. The thought which occasioned this arrangement, and which it is intended to set forth, is expressed by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 50:18-19, "Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria." The one event was a pledge of the other. At a time when the prophecy against Assyria had actually been fulfilled, the prophet attached it to the still unfulfilled prophecy against Babylon, to give a pledge of the fulfilment of the latter. This was the pedestal upon which the Massâh Bâbel was raised. And it was doubly suited for this, on account of its purely epilogical tone from Isaiah 14:26 onwards.
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