Isaiah 18:1
Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XVIII.

(1) Woe to the land shadowing with wings.—A new kingdom, hitherto unnamed by Isaiah, comes now within his horizon. The movements of Tirhakah, king of Cush or Ethiopia, from the upper valley of the Nile, subduing Egypt, and prepared to enter into conflict with the great Assyrian king (Isaiah 37:9), had apparently excited the hopes of such of Hezekiah’s counsellors as put their trust in an arm of flesh. To these Isaiah now turns with words of warning. The words “shadowing with wings” have been very variously interpreted as implying (1) the image of a mighty eagle stretching out its imperial wings (Ezekiel 17:1-8); (2) the urœus or disk with outspread wings which appears in Egyptian paintings as the symbol of Ethiopian sovereignty; (3) the rendering resounding being adopted instead of “shadowing,” the swarms of the tse-tse fly that have been the terror of all travellers in Abyssinia. Of these (2) has most to commend it, and receives confirmation from the inscription of Piankhi-Mer-Amon, translated by Canon Cook in Records of the Past (2 p. 89), in which that king, an Ethiopian, who had conquered Egypt, appears with the urœus on his head, and the chiefs of the north and south cry out to him, “Grant us to be under thy shadow.” (Comp. Isaiah 30:2-3.) The phrase, “beyond the river,” points, as in Zephaniah 3:10, to the region of the White and the Blue Nile, south of Meroe or Sennar, and not far from the Lake Nyanza of modern explorers.

Isaiah 18:1. Wo to the land — Or, rather, as Bishop Lowth renders it, and as the particle הוי, here used, undoubtedly means, Isaiah 55:1, and elsewhere, Ho! to the land. The words seem evidently to contain an address to the land here meant, which is supposed to be Egypt, because of the attributes under which it is spoken of. 1st, It is said to be shadowing, or shadowed with wings, a description which, it is thought, agrees to Egypt, as connected with Ethiopia, because it is situated between two mountains on the eastern and western side of the Nile, which, as it were, overshadow it, especially where it is most narrow, toward Ethiopia, and which unfold themselves more and more in the manner of two wings, from the south toward the north. Thus Vitringa interprets the first member of the prophet’s description. But the Hebrew word, which our translators render shadowing, properly signifies a sort of timbrel, called in Latin sistrum, which was an instrument of music peculiar to the Egyptians in their sacrifices to Isis; and the two words here used, צלצל כנפים, tziltzal kenaphim, are interpreted by some, a winged timbrel or cymbal, which is an exact description of the Egyptian sistrum, and therefore is supposed to be made use of here as a distinguishing epithet of Egypt, termed the land of the winged timbrel, or cymbal. This interpretation is adopted by Bishop Lowth and many others. Both interpretations agree in this, that Egypt is the land intended; which is still more manifest from the second attribute mentioned as descriptive of it, that it is beyond, or rather borders upon, the rivers of Ethiopia, the word מעבר, signifying either on this side, or on the further side. The word כושׁ, chush, here rendered Ethiopia, sometimes signifies Arabia, and some interpreters think some rivers of a part of Arabia are meant, beyond which Egypt lay; but Vitringa, Bishop Lowth, and many others, understand the prophet as speaking of the Nile, and some great and celebrated rivers which flow into it from Ethiopia, and very much increase its waters. It is probable, that either the eastern branches of the lower Nile, the boundary of Egypt toward Arabia, are intended, or the parts of the upper Nile toward Ethiopia. It is thought the prophet the rather denominates Egypt from this epithet, because at this time it was under the power of the Ethiopians.18:1-7 God's care for his people; and the increase of the church. - This chapter is one of the most obscure in Scripture, though more of it probably was understood by those for whose use it was first intended, than by us now. Swift messengers are sent by water to a nation marked by Providence, and measured out, trodden under foot. God's people are trampled on; but whoever thinks to swallow them up, finds they are cast down, yet not deserted, not destroyed. All the dwellers on earth must watch the motions of the Divine Providence, and wait upon the directions of the Divine will. God gives assurance to his prophet, and by him to be given to his people. Zion is his rest for ever, and he will look after it. He will suit to their case the comforts and refreshments he provides for them; they will be acceptable, because seasonable. He will reckon with his and their enemies; and as God's people are protected at all seasons of the year, so their enemies are exposed at all seasons. A tribute of praise should be brought to God from all this. What is offered to God, must be offered in the way he has appointed; and we may expect him to meet us where he records his name. Thus shall the nations of the earth be convinced that Jehovah is the God, and Israel is his people, and shall unite in presenting spiritual sacrifices to his glory. Happy are those who take warning by his judgment on others, and hasten to join him and his people. Whatever land or people may be intended, we are here taught not to think that God takes no care of his church, and has no respect to the affairs of men, because he permits the wicked to triumph for a season. He has wise reasons for so doing, which we cannot now understand, but which will appear at the great day of his coming, when he will bring every work into judgment, and reward every man according to his works.Woe to the land - (הוי hôy). This word, as has been already remarked (the note at Isaiah 17:12), may be a mere interjection or salutation, and would be appropriately rendered by 'Ho!' Or it may be a word denouncing judgment, or wrath, as it is often used in this prophecy (the note at Isaiah 5:8).

Shadowing with wings - (כנפים צלצל tsı̂letsal kenāpāı̂ym). This is one of the most difficult expressions in the whole chapter; and one to which as yet, probably, no satisfactory meaning has been applied. The Septuagint renders it, Οὐαὶ γῆς πλοὶων πτέρυγες Ouai gēc1;υγες Ouai gēs ploiōn pteruges - 'Ah! wings of the land of ships.' The Chaldee, 'Woe to the land in which they come in ships from a distant country, and whose sails are spread out as an eagle which flies upon its wings.' Grotius renders it, 'The land whose extreme parts are shaded by mountains.' The word rendered, 'shadowed' צלצל tsı̂letsal, occurs only in this place and in Job 41:7, where it is translated 'fish-spears' - but as we know nothing of the "form" of those spears, that place throws no light on the meaning of the word here. The word is derived, evidently, from צלל tsālal, which has three significations:

(1) "To be shady, dark, obscure;" and hence, its derivatives are applied to anything that "makes" a shade or shadow - particularly "shady trees" Job 40:21-22; the shades of night Sol 2:17; Sol 4:6; or anything that produces obscurity, or darkness, as a tree, a rock, a wing, etc.

(2) It means "to tingle," spoken of the ears 1 Samuel 3:11; 2 Kings 21:13; "to quiver," spoken of the lips Habakkuk 3:16; and hence, its derivatives are applied to anything that makes a sound by "tinkling" - an instrument of music; a cymbal made of two pieces of metal that are struck together 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 1 Chronicles 16:42; 1 Chronicles 25:6; 2 Chronicles 5:12; Nehemiah 12:27; Psalm 150:5)

(3) It means "to sink" Exodus 15:10. From the sense of making "a shade," a derivative of the verb צלצל tselâtsâl - the same as used here except the points - is applied to locusts because they appear in such swarms as to obscure the rays of the sun, and produce an extended shade, or shadow, over a land as a cloud does; or because they make a rustling with their wings.

The word used here, therefore, may mean either "shaded, or rustling, or rattling," in the manner of a cymbal or other tinkling instrument. It may be added, that the word may mean a "double shade," being a doubling of the word צל tsêl, a "shade, or shdow," and it has been supposed by some to apply to Ethiopia as lying betwen the tropics, having a "double shadow;" that is, so that the shadow of objects is cast one half of the year on the north side, and the other half on the south. The word 'wings' is applied in the Scriptures to the following things, namely:

(1) The wing of a fowl. This is the literal, and common signification.

(2) The skirts, borders, or lower parts of a garment, from the resemblance to wings Numbers 15:38; 1 Samuel 24:5, 1 Samuel 24:11; Zechariah 8:13. Also a bed-covering Deuteronomy 33:1.

(3) The extremities or borders of a country, or of the world Job 37:3; Isaiah 24:16; Ezekiel 17:3, Ezekiel 17:7.

(4) The "wing" or extremity of an army, as we use the word "wing" Isaiah 8:8; Jeremiah 48:40; Daniel 9:27.

(5) The expanding rays of the morning, because the light "expands or spreads out" like wings Psalm 139:9; Malachi 4:2.

(6) The "wind" - resembling wings in rapid motion Psalm 18:10, Psalm 18:21; Psalm 104:3; Hosea 4:19.

(7) The battlement or pinnacle of the temple - or perhaps the porches extended on each side of the temple like wings (Daniel 9:27; compare Matthew 4:5).

(8) "Protection" - as wings are a protection to young birds in their nest (see Psalm 18:8; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 91:4; Matthew 23:37). It has been proposed by some to apply this description to "ships," or the sails of vessels, as if a land was designated which was covered with "sails," or the "wings" of vessels. So the Septuagint, and the Chaldee. But there is no instance in which the word "wings" is so applied in the Scriptures.

continued...

CHAPTER 18

Isa 18:1-7.

Isaiah announces the overthrow of Sennacherib's hosts and desires the Ethiopian ambassadors, now in Jerusalem, to bring word of it to their own nation; and he calls on the whole world to witness the event (Isa 18:3). As Isa 17:12-14 announced the presence of the foe, so Isa 18:1-7 foretells his overthrow.

1. Woe—The heading in English Version, "God will destroy the Ethiopians," is a mistake arising from the wrong rendering "Woe," whereas the Hebrew does not express a threat, but is an appeal calling attention (Isa 55:1; Zec 2:6): "Ho." He is not speaking against but to the Ethiopians, calling on them to hear his prophetical announcement as to the destruction of their enemies.

shadowing with wings—rather, "land of the winged bark"; that is, "barks with wing-like sails, answering to vessels of bulrushes" in Isa 18:2; the word "rivers," in the parallelism, also favors it; so the Septuagint and Chaldee [Ewald]. "Land of the clanging sound of wings," that is, armies, as in Isa 8:8; the rendering "bark," or "ship," is rather dubious [Maurer]. The armies referred to are those of Tirhakah, advancing to meet the Assyrians (Isa 37:9). In English Version, "shadowing" means protecting—stretching out its wings to defend a feeble people, namely, the Hebrews [Vitringa]. The Hebrew for "wings" is the same as for the idol Cneph, which was represented in temple sculptures with wings (Ps 91:4).

beyond—Meroe, the island between the "rivers" Nile and Astaboras is meant, famed for its commerce, and perhaps the seat of the Ethiopian government, hence addressed here as representing the whole empire: remains of temples are still found, and the name of "Tirhakah" in the inscriptions. This island region was probably the chief part of Queen Candace's kingdom (Ac 8:27). For "beyond" others translate less literally "which borderest on."

Ethiopia—literally, "Cush." Horsley is probably right that the ultimate and fullest reference of the prophecy is to the restoration of the Jews in the Holy Land through the instrumentality of some distant people skilled in navigation (Isa 18:2; Isa 60:9, 10; Ps 45:15; 68:31; Zep 3:10). Phœnician voyagers coasting along would speak of all Western remote lands as "beyond" the Nile's mouths. "Cush," too, has a wide sense, being applied not only to Ethiopia, but Arabia-Deserta and Felix, and along the Persian Gulf, as far as the Tigris (Ge 2:13).God, in defence of his church and punishing her enemies, will destroy the Ethiopians, Isaiah 18:1-6: an access thereby shall be to the church, Isaiah 18:7.

The land; either,

1. Of Arabia; or,

2. Of Ethiopia beyond Egypt; or,

3. Of Egypt, as some both ancient and later interpreters judge; of whom he speaks more darkly in this chapter, and then explains himself more clearly in the next chapter. But this controversy will be best determined by examining the following description.

Shadowing with wings: the title of wings is oft given, both in Scripture and in other authors, unto divers things which have, some general kind of resemblance to wings, as to the battlements of a house or temple, as Matthew 4:5; to the skirts of a garment, as Ruth 3:9, and oft elsewhere; to an army, as Isaiah 8:8 Jeremiah 48:40 49:22; and to the sails of a ship, as this word is here commonly understood, and as it is unquestionably used in other authors. And shadowing with wings is nothing else but overspread or filled with them; which title may be given either to Ethiopia or Egypt, in regard of the great numbers, either,

1. Of their armies; or rather,

2. Of their ships or vessels sailing upon the sea or rivers: for,

1. In these they exceeded most of those nations who had dealings with the Jews, whereas other nations equalled or exceeded them in numerous armies. But they had an innumerable company of ships or boats, not only because of the commodiousness of the river Nilus, and its’ many branches, and the Red Sea, and the Midland Sea, for navigation; but also because of the frequent overflowings of the river Nilus over their land, which made them absolutely necessary.

2. This best suits with the next verse.

3. Those ancient and venerable interpreters, the LXX. and the Chaldee, who best understood the Hebrew words and phrases, expound it so.

Beyond; or, on this side, as this particle is rendered, Numbers 21:13 22:1, and in many other places. Or, as others translate it, besides, which may comprehend both sides; and so the land of which he speaks is supposed to be situated on both sides of this river or rivers; which is most true both of Egypt and of Ethiopia. The rivers: a late learned writer understands this of three or four rivers of Arabia Chusaeea, whereof one flows into the Red Sea, another into the Midland Sea, and a third into a great lake; which being obscure and very inconsiderable rivers, and running in so distant channels, it is not probable that this land should receive its denomination from them. And therefore it seems more reasonable to understand this of the great river Nilus. which comes from Ethiopia, and runs through the length of that land, and through Egypt, into the Midland Sea; and which is here called rivers, in the plural number, as it is also Exodus 7:19 Isaiah 7:18 Ezekiel 29:3,4, and unquestionably Nab. iii. 8. And so it might well be called, either for its greatness, or for the many rivulets that run into it, or for the various streams or channels into which it is divided; as Tigris, upon the same reasons, hath the same title of rivers ascribed to it, Nahum 2:6. Of Ethiopia, Heb. of Cush; by which he seems to understand either,

1. Arabia, which in many places of Scripture comes under that name, though not in all places, as some learned men contend. Nor doth this place seem to be understood here, because these rivers were not interposed between Judea, in which Isaiah wrote this prophecy, and Arabia; nor were the rivers of Arabia, mentioned before, interposed between Judea and Egypt or Ethiopia: and besides, those rivers were but small and inconsiderable; and therefore, as was noted before, this land, whatsoever it is, would not have been denominated from them, especially when it is not properly situated either beyond them, or on this side of them. But if this Cush be Arabia, peradventure it were better to understand the rivers, or the river, as it was explained before, of the Red Sea, beyond which indeed both Egypt and Ethiopia were, in reference to Arabia. And whereas it may be objected that the title of river or rivers is very improperly given to the sea, it may be fairly answered, that as rivers are sometimes called by the name of the sea, as Euphrates is, Isaiah 21:1 Jeremiah 51:36; so this very word here rendered river is used concerning the sea in the Hebrew text, Jonah 2 3, and indeed may not unfitly be given to the Red Sea, which both for its length and breadth hath a manifest resemblance unto some large rivers which are in the world. And so the words may be very truly understood either of Egypt or of Ethiopia, both which countries in this sense are beyond the rivers or river of Arabia. But this I only propose, and submit to the reader’s judgment. Or,

2. Ethiopia, properly so called; for the Cushites or Ethiopians are distinguished by Herodotus, and divers other both ancient and later writers, into the eastern, which seem to be the Arabians, and the western, which seem to be the Ethiopians under Egypt. And it is probably thought that these Cushites were first planted in Arabia, and, upon their increase, part of them passed over into Africa by crossing the Red Sea, which was; very short and an easy passage, and settled there. And according to this interpretation of the word, the description of the land given in the last clause of this verse agrees either to Ethiopia or to Egypt, as is evident from what hath been already said for the clearing of this dark and difficult verse.

Woe to the land shadowing with wings,.... Or, "O land", as calling to it; so Aben Ezra and Kimchi. It is very difficult to determine what land is here meant: some think the land of Assyria is here designed, as Aben Ezra and others, and so it is a continuation of the prophecy concerning the destruction of the Assyrians, in the three last verses of the preceding chapter Isaiah 17:12; the stretching out of whose wings is mentioned, Isaiah 8:8 and thought to be referred to here; others are of opinion that the land of Judea is intended, which trusted under the shadow of the wings of Egypt and Ethiopia, to whom the characters in the next verse Isaiah 18:2 are supposed to belong: but the more generally received sense is, that either Egypt or Ethiopia themselves are pointed at, described as "shadowing with wings"; not with the wings of birds, as Jarchi interprets it, which flocked thither in great numbers, the country being hot, and so shaded it with their wings; but rather with mountains, with which Ethiopia, at least some part of it, was encompassed and shaded; or else with ships, whose sails are like wings, and which resorting hither, in numerous fleets of them, and hovering about their coasts and ports, seemed to shadow them; to which agrees the Septuagint version, "Woe to the land, the wings of ships!" and so the Targum,

"Woe to the land to which they come in ships from a far country, whose sails are stretched out, as an eagle that flies with its wings;''

so Manasseh Ben Israel (c) renders them,

"Woe to the land, which, under the shadow of veils, falls beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.''

The word translated "shadowing" is used for a cymbal, 2 Samuel 6:5, Psalm 150:5 and so it is rendered here in the Vulgate Latin version, "Woe to the land, with the cymbal of wings": and some think the "sistrum", is meant, which was a musical instrument used by the Egyptians in their worship of Isis; and which had wings to it, or had transverse rods in the middle of it, which looked like wings, one of which may be seen in Pignorius (d); and so it describes the land of Egypt, famous for its winged cymbals. Minucius Felix (e) makes mention of the swallow along with the sistrum, which was a bird of Isis; and which some say was placed over the statue of Isis, with its wings stretched out.

Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia; the principal of which were Astaboras and Astapus (f), and also Nile itself, which came out of Ethiopia into Egypt: or, "which is on this side of the rivers of Ethiopia" (g); and so may intend Egypt, which bordered on this side of it towards Judea; or, "which is beside the rivers of Ethiopia" (h); and so may denote Ethiopia itself, situated by these rivers. The Targum renders it,

"the rivers of Judea.''

Some would have it, that the rivers of Arabia Chusaea are meant, which, lay between Judea and Egypt, as Besor, Rhinocorura, Trajan, and Corys; and Arabia seems rather to be meant by "Cush", than Ethiopia in Africa, since that lay beyond the rivers of Egypt, rather than Egypt beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.

(c) Spes Israelis, sect. 17. p. 57. (d) Mensa Isiaca, p. 67. (e) Octav. p. 21. (f) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 9. Ptolem. Geograph. 1. 4. c. 8. (g) "quae est citra flumina Cuscheae", Vitringa. So some in Gataker. (h) "Quae est secundum flumina Aethiopiae", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

Woe to the {a} land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Cush:

(a) He means that part of Ethiopia which lies toward the sea, which was so full of ships that the sails (which he compares to wings) seemed to shadow the sea.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. The word rendered woe is here neither a ‘cry of pity’ nor (as usually in Isaiah) of indignation. It is simply a particle of salutation (heus) as in ch. Isaiah 55:1; Zechariah 2:6-7 (10, 11 Heb.). Render: Ha, the land, &c.

the land shadowing with wings] a much disputed phrase. The most probable sense is that followed by R.V., the land of the rustling of wings. The Hebr. noun for “rustling” çělâçâl or çilçal means a kind of “locust” (Deuteronomy 28:42), a “harpoon” (Job 41:7, A.V. “fish-spears”), and a very similar form means “cymbals” (Psalm 150:5). The common root-idea is that of “clanging” or “jingling”; and if the above translation be correct the allusion is to the booming swarms of insects which abound in the Nile-lands. There may even be a special allusion to the dreaded Tsetse-fly, whose name among the Gallas (çalçalja) closely resembles the Hebr. word here used. The expression is to be understood literally, not metaphorically of armed hosts. Something might be said for the rendering of the LXX. and Targ. (“land of winged ships”) if it did not anticipate Isaiah 18:2. Others render, “land with the shadow on both sides” (ἀμφίσκιος)—a supposed allusion to the fact that between the tropics the shadow falls sometimes on the north and sometimes on the south. But this seems very fanciful.

beyond the rivers of Ethiopia] The phrase is repeated in Zephaniah 3:10. Ethiopia (Kush) is used in the Bible somewhat vaguely of the region south of Syene (Assouan), at the first cataract of the Nile (Ezekiel 29:10), corresponding generally to the modern Soudân (“land of the Blacks”). The empire of Tirhakah, which Isaiah has particularly in view, had its seat at Napata on the great westward bend of the Nile between Dongola and Berber. Hence it is not inappropriately described as lying “beyond” the rivers of Kush, i.e. the Nile itself and its numerous affluents (the Atbara, the Blue Nile, &c.).

1–3. The charge to the Ethiopian envoys, along with a poetic description of the land and people. The tendency of the ancient world to idealise the Ethiopians is familiar to students of classical literature. To the Greeks they were the “blameless Ethiopians” (Homer), “the tallest and handsomest of all men” (Herodotus). Isaiah would seem to have been struck by the fine physique of the ambassadors, and perhaps it was their narrative that furnished his vivid imagination with the picturesque details crowded into these three verses.Verses 1-7. - THE HOMAGE OF ETHIOPIA TO JEHOVAH. Amid the general excitement caused by the advance of Assyria, Ethiopia also is stirred, and stirred to its furthest limits. The king sends messengers in beats upon the canals and rivers to summon his troops to his standard (vers. 1, 2). The earth stands agaze to see the result of the approaching collision (ver. 3); but God rests calmly in heaven while events are ripening (vers. 4, 5). When the time comes he will strike the blow - Assyria will be given to the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field (ver. 6). Then Ethiopia will make an act of homage to Jehovah by the sending of a present to Jerusalem (ver. 7). The time seems to be that immediately preceding the great invasion of Sennacherib (about B.C. 700), when Shabatok the Ethiopian was King of Egypt, and Tirhakah (Tahark) either Crown Prince under him, or more probably Lord Paramount of Egypt over him, and reigning at Napata. Verse 1. - Woe to the land; rather, Ho for the land! (comp. Isaiah 17:12). Shadowing with wings; literally, either the land of the shadow of wings or the land of the noise of wings, most probably the latter. Allusion is thought to be made to the swarms of buzzing flies, especially the tsetse, with which Ethiopia abounds. At the same time, these swarms are, perhaps, intended to be taken as emblems of the hosts of warriors which Ethiopia can send forth (comp. Isaiah 7:18). Beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. The prophet cannot be supposed to have had more than a vague knowledge of African geography. He seems, however, robe aware that Ethiopia is a land of many rivers (see Baker's 'Nile Tributaries'), and he assumes that the dominion of the Ethiopian kings extends even beyond these rivers to the south of them. His object is, as Mr. Cheyne says, "to emphasize the greatness of Ethiopia." It may be questioned, however, whether the dominion of the Ethiopian kings of the time extended so far as he supposed. The seat of their power was Napata, now Gebel Berkal, in the great bend of the Nile between lat. 18° and 19° N.; and its southern limit was probably Khar-toum and the line of the Blue Nile (see Rawlinson's 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 2. p. 436). Third turn: "In that day will his fortified cities be like the ruins of the forest and of the mountain top, which they cleared before the sons of Israel: and there arises a waste place. For thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not thought of the Rock of thy stronghold, therefore thou plantedst charming plantations, and didst set them with strange vines. In the day that thou plantedst, thou didst make a fence; and with the morning dawn thou madest thy sowing to blossom: a harvest heap in the day of deep wounds and deadly sorrow of heart." The statement in Isaiah 17:3, "The fortress of Ephraim is abolished," is repeated in Isaiah 17:9 in a more descriptive manner. The fate of the strongly fortified cities of Ephraim would be the same as that of the old Canaanitish castles, which were still to be discerned in their antiquated remains, either in the depths of forests or high up on the mountains. The word ‛azubâh, which the early translators quite misunderstood, signifies, both here and in Isaiah 6:12, desolate places that have gone to ruin. They also misunderstood והאמיר הסהרשׁ. The Septuagint renders it, by a bold conjecture, οἱ Αμοῤῥηαῖοι καὶ οὶ Εὐαῖοι; but this is at once proved to be false by the inversion of the names of the two peoples, which was very properly thought to be necessary. האמיר undoubtedly signifies the top of a tree, which is quite unsuitable here. But as even this meaning points back to אמר, extollere, efferre (see at Psalm 94:4), it may also mean the mountain-top. The name hâ'emori (the Amorites: those who dwell high up in the mountains) proves the possibility of this; and the prophet had this name in his mind, and was guided by it in his choice of a word. The subject of עזבוּ is self-evident. And the reason why only the ruins in forests and on mountains are mentioned is, that other places, which were situated on the different lines of traffic, merely changed their inhabitants when the land was taken by Israel. The reason why the fate of Ephraim's fortified castles was the same as that of the Amoritish castles, which were then lying in ruins, was that Ephraim, as stated in Isaiah 17:10, had turned away from its true rocky stronghold, namely from Jehovah. It was a consequence of this estrangement from God, that Ephraim planted נעמנים נטעי, plantations of the nature of pleasant things, or pleasant plantations (compare on Psalm 78:49, and Ewald, 287, ab), i.e., cultivated all kinds of sensual accompaniments to its worship, in accordance with its heathen propensities; and sowed, or rather (as zemōrâh is the layer of a vine) "set," this garden-ground, to which the suffix ennu refers, with strange grapes, by forming an alliance with a zâr (a stranger), namely the king of Damascus. On the very day of the planting, Ephraim fenced it carefully (this is the meaning of the pilpel, sigsēg from שׂוּג equals סוּג, not "to raise," as no such verb as שׂוּג equals שׂגה, סגא, can be shown to exist), that is to say, he ensured the perpetuity of these sensuous modes of worship as a state religion, with all the shrewdness of a Jeroboam (see Amos 7:13). And the very next morning he had brought into blossom what he had sown: the foreign layer had shot up like a hot-house plant, i.e., the alliance had speedily grown into a hearty agreement, and had already produced one blossom at any rate, viz., the plan of a joint attack upon Judah. But this plantation, which was so flattering and promising for Israel, and which had succeeded so rapidly, and to all appearance so happily, was a harvest heap for the day of the judgment. Nearly all modern expositors have taken nēd as the third person (after the form mēth, Ges. 72, Anm. 1), and render it "the harvest flees;" but the third person of נוּד would be נד, like the participle in Genesis 4:12; whereas the meaning cumulus (a heap), which it has elsewhere as a substantive, is quite appropriate, and the statement of the prophet resembles that of the apostle in Romans 2:5. The day of the judgment is called "the day of נחלה" (or, according to another reading, נחלה), not, however, as equivalent to nachal, a stream (Luzzatto, in giorno di fiumana), as in Psalm 124:4 (the tone upon the last syllable proves this), nor in the sense of "in the day of possession," as Rosenmller and others suppose, since this necessarily gives to נד the former objectionable and (by the side of קציר) improbable verbal sense; but as the feminine of nachleh, written briefly for maccâh nachlâh (Jeremiah 14:17), i.e., inasmuch as it inflicts grievous and mortal wounds. Ephraim's plantation is a harvest heap for that day (compare kâtzir, the harvest of punishment, in Hosea 6:11 and Jeremiah 51:33); and the hope set upon this plantation is changed into אנוּשׁ כּאב, a desperate and incurable heartfelt sorrow (Jeremiah 30:15). The organic connection between Isaiah 17:12-14, which follow, and the oracle concerning Damascus and Israel, has also been either entirely misunderstood, or not thoroughly appreciated. The connection is the following: As the prophet sets before himself the manner in which the sin of Ephraim is punished by Asshur, as the latter sweeps over the Holy Land, the promise which already began to dawn in the second turn bursts completely through: the world-power is the instrument of punishment in the hands of Jehovah, but not for ever.
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