Isaiah 24:20
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy on it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) The earth shall reel to and fro . . .—The point of the first comparison is obvious. (Comp. the like illustration of a ship tossed by the waves in Psalm 107:27.) The second becomes clearer if we render hammock instead of cottage, a hanging mat, suspended from a tree, in which the keeper of the vineyard slept, moving with every breath of wind; the very type of instability. In the words that follow the prophet traces the destruction to its source. The physical catastrophe is not the result of merely physical causes. The earth totters under the weight of its iniquity, and falls (we must remember the Hebrew idea of the world as resting upon pillars, 1Samuel 2:8), never to rise again. In its vision of the last things the picture finds a parallel, though under different imagery, in 2Peter 3:10-13.

24:16-23 Believers may be driven into the uttermost parts of the earth; but they are singing, not sighing. Here is terror to sinners; the prophet laments the miseries he saw breaking in like a torrent; and the small number of believers. He foresees that sin would abound. The meaning is plain, that evil pursues sinners. Unsteady, uncertain are all these things. Worldly men think to dwell in the earth as in a palace, as in a castle; but it shall be removed like a cottage, like a lodge put up for the night. It shall fall and not rise again; but there shall be new heavens and a new earth, in which shall dwell nothing but righteousness. Sin is a burden to the whole creation; it is a heavy burden, under which it groans now, and will sink at last. The high ones, that are puffed up with their grandeur, that think themselves out of the reach of danger, God will visit for their pride and cruelty. Let us judge nothing before the time, though some shall be visited. None in this world should be secure, though their condition be ever so prosperous; nor need any despair, though their condition be ever so deplorable. God will be glorified in all this. But the mystery of Providence is not yet finished. The ruin of the Redeemer's enemies must make way for his kingdom, and then the Sun of Righteousness will appear in full glory. Happy are those who take warning by the sentence against others; every impenitent sinner will sink under his transgression, and rise no more, while believers enjoy everlasting bliss.The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard - This is descriptive of the agitation that occurs in an earthquake when everything is shaken from its foundation, and when trees and towers are shaken by the mighty concussion. The same figure is used in Isaiah 29:9. See also the description of a tempest at sea, in Psalm 107:27 :

They reel to and fro,

And stagger like a drunken man,

And are at their wit's end.

And shall be removed like a cottage - Or rather, shall move or vacillate (התנודדה hitenôdedâh) like a cottage. The word "cottage" (מלוּנה melûnâh from לין lı̂yn, "to pass the night, to lodge for a night") means properly a temporary shed or lodge for the watchman of a garden or vineyard (see the note at Isaiah 1:8). Sometimes these cottages were erected in the form of a hut; and sometimes they were a species of hanging bed or couch, that was suspended from the limbs of trees. They were made either by interweaving the limbs of a tree, or by suspending them by cords from the branches of trees, or by extending a cord or cords from one tree to another, and laying a couch or bed on the cords. They were thus made to afford a convenient place for observation, and also to afford security from the access of wild beasts. Travelers in the East even now resort to such a temporary lodge for security (see Niebuhr's Description of Arabia). These lodges were easily moved to and fro, and swung about by the wind - and this is the idea in the verse before us. The whole land was agitated as with an earthquake; it reeled like a drunkard; it moved, and was unsettled, as the hanging couch on the trees was driven to and fro by the wind.

And the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it - Like a vast incumbent weight on a dwelling which it cannot sustain, and beneath which it is crushed.

And it shall fall, and not rise again - This does not mean, as I apprehend, that the nation should never be restored to its former dignity and rank as a people, for the prophet immediately Isaiah 24:23 speaks of such a restoration, and of the re-establishment of the theocracy; but it must mean that in those convulsions it would not rise. It would not be able to recover itself; it would certainly be prostrated. As we say of a drunkard, he may stumble often, and partially recover himself, yet he will certainly fall so as not then to be able to recover himself, so it would be with that agitated and convulsed land. They would make many efforts to recover themselves, and they would partially succeed, yet they would ultimately be completely prostrate in the dust.

20. removed like a cottage—(See on [734]Isa 1:8). Here, a hanging couch, suspended from the trees by cords, such as Niebuhr describes the Arab keepers of lands as having, to enable them to keep watch, and at the same time to be secure from wild beasts. Translate, "Shall wave to and fro like a hammock" swung about by the wind.

heavy upon it—like an overwhelming burden.

not rise again—not meaning, that it never would rise (Isa 24:23), but in those convulsions it would not rise, it would surely fall.

The earth; the people of the earth.

Shall reel to and fro like a drunkard; shall be sorely perplexed and distressed, not knowing whither to go, nor what to do. Like a cottage; or like a lodge in a garden, of which this word is used, Isaiah 1:8, which is soon taken down, and set up ill another place, as occasion requires. Or, as others render it, like a tent, which is easily and commonly carried from place to place.

The transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; those sins which they formerly esteemed light and pleasant shall now be most burdensome and grievous to them, because of the dreadful punishments which shall follow them. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard,.... When it shall be moved and agitated to and fro, and dissolved; or this may be meant of the inhabitants, who shall be at their wits' end, and in the utmost confusion, not knowing what to do, nor where to go, having no more thought, nor sense, nor command of themselves, than a drunken man; and this is in just retaliation, that as they have been drunk with sin, having drank up iniquity like water, they shall now be drunk with punishment, which being heavy upon them, will make them stagger like a drunken man:

and shall be removed like a cottage; or, "a tent" (x); either of soldiers or shepherds, which are easily taken down and moved; or like "a lodge" (y), as the word is rendered Isaiah 1:8. The Septuagint render it a "fruit watch"; and, according to the Jewish writers, it signifies a booth or tent, in which the keepers of gardens or vineyards watched in the night; which Jarchi says was built on the top of a tree, and Kimchi on a hill; and, being made of light wood, was easily moved to and fro with the wind. The Targum is,

"and it goes and comes as a bed;''

that is, rocks as a cradle:

and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; that is, the punishment of transgression, which, like a talent of lead, in Zechariah 5:8 shall crush it, and the inhabitants of it, to pieces:

and it shall fall, and not rise again; in the form it now is; for there will be new heavens and a new earth, in which the righteous, who will share the first resurrection, will dwell; for as for the first earth, or present one, it shall pass away, and no place be found for it, Revelation 20:11.

(x) "quasi tabernaculum", V. L. (y) "Ut diversoriolum", Piscator.

The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. reel to and fro like a drunkard] Cf. Psalm 107:27.

shall be removed like a cottage] Better as in R.V. shall be moved to and fro like a hut. The word for “hut” is that used in ch. Isaiah 1:8 of the watchman’s frail shelter in the cucumber-field. It might here be fitly rendered “hammock.”

the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it] The material fabric of the earth is as it were crushed beneath the accumulated guilt of its inhabitants (cf. Isaiah 24:5, Isaiah 26:21).

it shall fall, and not rise again] Apparently a citation from Amos 5:2.Verse 20. - The earth... shall be removed like a cottage; rather, sways to and fro like a hammock, Rosenmüller observes, "Alludit ad pensiles lectos, quos, metu ferrarum, in arboribus sibi parare solent, istis in terris, non custodes solum hortorum camporumve, sed et iter facientes." The transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; i.e. the earth perishes on account of men's sins. It shall fall, and not rise again. The present earth is to disappear altogether, and to be superseded by "a new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1). There is now a church there refined by the judgment, and rejoicing in its apostolic calling to the whole world. "They will lift up their voice, and exult; for the majesty of Jehovah they shout from the sea: therefore praise ye Jehovah in the lands of the sun, in the islands of the sea the name of Jehovah the God of Israel." The ground and subject of the rejoicing is "the majesty of Jehovah," i.e., the fact that Jehovah had shown Himself so majestic in judgment and mercy (Isaiah 12:5-6), and was now so manifest in His glory (Isaiah 2:11, Isaiah 2:17). Therefore rejoicing was heard "from the sea" (the Mediterranean), by which the abode of the congregation of Jehovah was washed. Turning in that direction, it had the islands and coast lands of the European West in front (iyyi hayyâm; the only other passage in which this occurs is Isaiah 11:11, cf., Ezekiel 26:18), and at its back the lands of the Asiatic East, which are called 'urim, the lands of light, i.e., of the sun-rising. This is the true meaning of 'urim, as J. Schelling and Drechsler agree; for Dderlein's comparison of the rare Arabic word awr, septentrio is as far removed from the Hebrew usage as that of the Talmud אור אורתּא, vespera. Hitzig's proposed reading באיים (according to the lxx) diminishes the substance and destroys the beauty of the appeal, which goes forth both to the east and west, and summons to the praise of the name of Jehovah the God of Israel, על־כּן, i.e., because of His manifested glory. His "name" (cf., Isaiah 30:27) is His nature as revealed and made "nameable" in judgment and mercy.
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