Isaiah 2:16
And on all the ships of Tarshish, and on all pleasant pictures.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) And upon all the ships of Tarshish.—The words point to the commerce in the Red Sea carried on by the fleets of Uzziah and Jotham (1Kings 22:48); perhaps also to that in the Mediterranean with Tarshish, or Tartessus (Spain), as in Jonah 1:3. The “ships of Tarshish” had come to be used generically for all ships of the class used in such commerce, whether crossing the Mediterranean to Spain, or circumnavigating Africa, or passing over the Persian Gulf to Ophir.

Upon all pleasant pictures.—Literally, upon all imagery of delight (Comp. Leviticus 26:1; Numbers 33:52.) The combination of the phrase with “the ships of Tarshish” suggests the inference that it includes the works of art which were brought by them from East and West. For these, it would seem, there was a mania among the higher classes in Jerusalem, like that which in later times has fastened upon china, or pictures, or carvings in ivory. So the ships of Solomon brought gold and silver, and “ivory and apes and peacocks” (1Kings 10:22). The “ivory beds” of Amos 6:4, the “gold rings set with the beryl,” the “ivory overlaid with sapphires,” the “pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold” of Song of Solomon 5:14-15, the precious things in the treasury of Hezekiah (Isaiah 39:2), may be taken as examples of this form of luxury. The æstheticism of the Roman Empire, of the Renaissance of the fifteenth century, of the age of Louis XIV., of our own time and country, presents obvious parallels.

2:10-22 The taking of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans seems first meant here, when idolatry among the Jews was done away; but our thoughts are led forward to the destruction of all the enemies of Christ. It is folly for those who are pursued by the wrath of God, to think to hide or shelter themselves from it. The shaking of the earth will be terrible to those who set their affections on things of the earth. Men's haughtiness will be brought down, either by the grace of God convincing them of the evil of pride, or by the providence of God depriving them of all the things they were proud of. The day of the Lord shall be upon those things in which they put their confidence. Those who will not be reasoned out of their sins, sooner or later shall be frightened out of them. Covetous men make money their god; but the time will come when they will feel it as much their burden. This whole passage may be applied to the case of an awakened sinner, ready to leave all that his soul may be saved. The Jews were prone to rely on their heathen neighbours; but they are here called upon to cease from depending on mortal man. We are all prone to the same sin. Then let not man be your fear, let not him be your hope; but let your hope be in the Lord your God. Let us make this our great concern.And upon all the ships of Tarshish - Ships of Tarshish are often mentioned in the Old Testament, but the meaning of the expression is not quite obvious; see 1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:21; 2 Chronicles 20:36-37; Psalm 48:7, ... It is evident that "Tarshish" was some distant land from which was imported silver, iron, lead, tin, etc. It is now generally agreed that "Tartessus" in Spain is referred to by the Tarshish of Scripture. Bruce, however, supposes that it was in Africa, south of Abyssinia; see the note at Isaiah 60:9. That it was in the "west" is evident from Genesis 10:4; compare Psalm 72:10. In Ezekiel 28:13, it is mentioned as an important place of trade; in Jeremiah 10:9, it is said that silver was procured there; and in Ezekiel 28:12, it is said that iron, lead, silver, and tin, were imported from it. In 2 Chronicles 9:21, it is said that the ships of Tarshish returned every three years, bringing gold and silver, ivory, apes and peacocks. These are productions chiefly of India, but they might have been obtained in trade during the voyage. In Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 60:9, the phrase, 'ships of Tarshish,' seems to denote ships that were bound on long voyages, and it is probable that they came to denote a particular kind of ships adapted to long voyages, in the same way as the word "Indiaman" does with us. The precise situation of "Tarshish" is not necessary to be known in order to understand the passage here. The phrase, 'ships of Tarshish,' denotes clearly ships employed in foreign trade, and in introducing articles of commerce, and particularly of luxury. The meaning is, that God would embarrass, and destroy this commerce; that his judgments would be on their articles of luxury, The Septuagint renders it, 'and upon every ship of the sea, and upon every beautiful appearance of ships.' The Targum, 'and upon those who dwell in the isles of the sea, and upon those who dwell in beautiful palaces.'

And upon all pleasant pictures - Margin, 'pictures of desire;' that is, such as it should be esteemed desirable to possess, and gaze upon; pictures of value or beauty. Tatum, 'costly palaces.' The word rendered 'pictures,' שׂכיות s'ekı̂yôth, denotes properly "sights," or objects to be looked at; and does not designate "paintings" particularly, but everything that was designed for ornament or luxury. Whether the art of painting was much known among the Hebrews, it is not now possible to determine. To a certain extent, it may be presumed to have been practiced; but the meaning of this place is, that the divine judgment should rest on all that was designed for mere ornament and luxury; and, from the description in the previous verses, there can be no doubt that such ornaments would abound.

16. Tarshish—Tartessus in southwest Spain, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, near Gibraltar. It includes the adjoining region: a Phœnician colony; hence its connection with Palestine and the Bible (2Ch 9:21). The name was also used in a wide sense for the farthest west, as our West Indies (Isa 66:19; Ps 48:7; 72:10). "Ships of Tarshish" became a phrase for richly laden and far-voyaging vessels. The judgment shall be on all that minister to man's luxury (compare Re 18:17-19).

pictures—ordered to be destroyed (Nu 33:52). Still to be seen on the walls of Nineveh's palaces. It is remarkable that whereas all other ancient civilized nations, Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome, have left monuments in the fine arts, Judea, while rising immeasurably above them in the possession of "the living oracles," has left none of the former. The fine arts, as in modern Rome, were so often associated with polytheism, that God required His people in this, as in other respects, to be separate from the nations (De 4:15-18). But Vulgate translation is perhaps better, "All that is beautiful to the sight"; not only paintings, but all luxurious ornaments. One comprehensive word for all that goes before (compare Re 18:12, 14, 16).

The ships of Tarshish; the ships of the sea, as that word is used, Psalm 48:7, whereby you fetched riches and precious things from the remote parts of the world. And upon all the ships of Tarshish,.... Upon all the merchants and merchandises of Rome. The Targum is,

"and upon all that dwell in the islands of the sea.''

See Revelation 16:20. Tarshish, as Vitringa observes, designs Tartessus or Gades in Spain, which must bring to mind the memorable destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1558, as he also notes.

And upon all pleasant pictures; of Christ and the Virgin Mary, of angels, and of saints departed, the Papists make use of to help their devotion. The Targum is,

"and upon all that dwell in beautiful palaces;''

such as those of the pope and his cardinals at Rome, and of archbishops and bishops at other places. The Septuagint version is, "and upon all the sight of the beauty of ships"; such were the ships of the Phoenicians, which were very much ornamented, and beautiful to behold.

And upon {u} all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

(u) He condemns their vain confidence which they had in strongholds and in their rich merchandise which brought in vain pleasures with which men's minds became effeminate.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. ships of Tarshish] The largest class of merchant vessels then used. They were first built by the Phœnicians for the long voyage to Tartessus (Tarshish) in Spain; but the name (like our “Indiaman”) was applied to large ships whatever their destination. Since the harbour of Elath was at this time in the possession of Judah the prophet may allude to fleets sailing thence to the East in the service of Jotham. More likely, however, he is thinking of the Phœnician argosies which he had seen in the Mediterranean. pleasant pictures] An obscure expression, found only here. The noun is thought to be derived from a verb meaning “to see,” but this lends itself to a variety of senses. The rendering of A.V. seems to rest on the Vulg., “omne quod visu pulchrum est”; or perhaps like that of R.V. (“imagery”) on the analogy of a cognate Heb. noun (Numbers 33:52; Proverbs 25:11); “watch-towers” (R.V. marg.) is based on the Peshito (see Cheyne, Comm. II. p. 137),Verse 16. - All the ships of Tarshish. "Ships of Tarshish" meant originally "ships built to sail to Tarshish;" but was used by the later writers for ships of a certain class or size (1 Kings 22:48; Psalm 48:7; Ezekiel 27:25). Tarshish was Tartessus, in Spain, and voyages thither were regarded as long and dangerous (Herod., 1:163). Consequently, the ships which were built for the Tartessian trade were of unusual size and strength. Uzziah had "built [i.e. rebuilt] Elath," in the eastern arm of the Red Sea, early in his reign (2 Kings 14:22), and no doubt maintained a fleet there, as Jehoshaphat had done (1 Kings 22:48). Elath remained in the possession of the Jews till the reign of Ahaz, when it was taken by Rezin, and restored to Edom (see 'Speaker's Commentary' on 2 Kings 16:6). Upon all pleasant pictures; Revised Version, all pleasant imagery. The exact word here translated "pictures" does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament; but a cognate word is not uncommon. From the passages in which this cognate word occurs (especially Leviticus 26:1; Numbers 33:52; Proverbs 25:11; Ezekiel 8:12), it is concluded that works of art, of some sort or other, are intended. More than this can scarcely be determined. Dr. Kay thinks the term to include "sculptures and fresco-paintings." Mr. Cheyne translates "all delightful works of imagery." The sentiment is that the judgment of God will fall on the most valued contents of palaces and grand houses, no less than upon the forests and the mountains, the fortified places, and the national navy. All wilt be involved in one sweeping destruction. It was a state ripe for judgment, from which, therefore, the prophet could at once proceed, without any further preparation, to the proclamation of judgment itself."Thus, then, men are bowed down, and lords are brought low; and forgive them - no, that Thou wilt not." The consecutive futures depict the judgment, as one which would follow by inward necessity from the worldly and ungodly glory of the existing state of things. The future is frequently used in this way (for example, in Isaiah 9:7.). It was a judgment by which small and great, i.e., the people in all its classes, were brought down from their false eminence. "Men" and "lords" (âdâm and ish, as in Isaiah 5:15; Psalm 49:3, and Proverbs 8:4, and like άνθρωπος and ανήρ in the Attic dialect), i.e., men who were lost in the crowd, and men who rose above it - all of them the judgment would throw down to the ground, and that without mercy (Revelation 6:15). The prophet expresses the conviction (al as in 2 Kings 6:27), that on this occasion God neither could nor would take away the sin by forgiving it. There was nothing left for them, therefore, but to carry out the command of the prophet in Isaiah 2:10 : "Creep into the rock, and bury thyself in the dust, before the terrible look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty." The glorious nation would hide itself most ignominiously, when the only true glory of Jehovah, which had been rejected by it, was manifested in judgment. They would conceal themselves in holes of the rocks, as if before a hostile army (Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6; 1 Samuel 14:11), and bury themselves with their faces in the sand, as if before the fatal simōm of the desert, that they might not have to bear this intolerable sight. And when Jehovah manifested Himself in this way in the fiery glance of judgment, the result summed up in Isaiah 2:11 must follow: "The people's eyes of haughtiness are humbled, and the pride of their lords is bowed down; and Jehovah, He only, stands exalted in that day." The result of the process of judgment is expressed in perfects: nisgab is the third pers. praet., not the participle: Jehovah "is exalted," i.e., shows Himself as exalted, whilst the haughty conduct of the people is brought down (shâphel is a verb, not an adjective; it is construed in the singular by attraction, and either refers to âdâm, man or people: Ges. 148, 1; or what is more probable, to the logical unity of the compound notion which is taken as subject, the constr. ad synesin s. sensum: Thiersch, 118), and the pride of the lords is bowed down (shach equals shâchach, Job 9:13). The first strophe of the proclamation of judgment appended to the prophetic saying in Isaiah 2:2-4 is here brought to a close. The second strophe reaches to Isaiah 2:17, where Isaiah 2:11 is repeated as a concluding verse.
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