Isaiah 24:21
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth on the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) The Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high . . .—The prophet’s utterance becomes more and more apocalyptic. He sees more than the condemnation of the kings of earth. Jehovah visits also the “principalities and powers in heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10) or “on high” (Ephesians 6:12). Perhaps identifying these spiritual evil powers with the gods whom the nations worshipped, and these again with the stars in the firmament, Isaiah foresees a time when their long-protracted rebellion shall come to an end, and all authority and power be put down under the might of Jehovah (1Corinthians 15:25). The antithetical parallelism of the two clauses is decisive against the interpretation which sees in the “high ones on high” only the representatives of earthly kingdoms, though we may admit that from the prophet’s stand-point each rebel nation is thought of as swayed by a rebel spirit. (Comp. Daniel 10:20; Ecclesiasticus 17:14; and the LXX. of Deuteronomy 32:8 : “He set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God.”) The same thought is found in a Rabbinic proverb, “God never destroys a nation without having first of all destroyed its prince” (Delitzsch, but without a reference).

Isaiah 24:21-22. It shall come to pass in that day — At or soon after the time when God shall execute the above-mentioned judgment on the apostate Jews; that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones — The proud and potent enemies of his people, who possess the high places of the earth; and the kings of the earth — The great monarchs of the world, who now scorn and trample on his people. Some think the idolatrous persecuting Roman empire is here intended, but what follows seems to require that we should understand these verses as a further prediction of the ruin of the Jewish constitution in church and state. Bishop Lowth translates them, Jehovah shall summon on high the host that is on high; and on earth the kings of the earth; which he interprets of “the ecclesiastical and civil polity of the Jews, which were to be destroyed;” the host of the high ones meaning the chief priests, with the high-priest at their head, or their ecclesiastical government, and the kings of the earth their civil power; the name of king being frequently given in Scripture unto inferior rulers. And they shall be gathered together — By God’s special providence, in order to their punishment. And thus the unbelieving Jews were generally gathered together at Jerusalem, to their solemn feasts, when Titus came and besieged and destroyed them; and shall be shut up in prison — As malefactors, which are taken in several places, are usually brought to one common prison. After many days they shall be visited — After the apostate Jews shall have been shut up in unbelief, and in great tribulations for many ages together, they shall be convinced of their sin in crucifying the Messiah, and brought home to God and Christ by true repentance. “The nation,” says Bishop Lowth, “shall continue in a state of depression and dereliction for a long time. The image seems to be taken from the practice of the great monarchs of that time, who, when they had thrown their wretched captives into a dungeon, never gave themselves the trouble of inquiring about them, but let them lie a long time in that miserable condition, wholly destitute of relief, and disregarded. God shall at length revisit and restore his people in the last age: and then the kingdom of God shall be established in such perfection, as wholly to obscure and eclipse the glory of the temporary, typical, preparative kingdom now subsisting,” as is signified in the next verse.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.In that day - In the time of the captivity at Babylon.

Shall punish - Hebrew as the Margin, 'Shall visit upon' (see the note at Isaiah 10:12).

The host of the high ones - There have been various interpretations of this expression. Jerome understands it of the host of heaven, and thinks it refers to the fact that in the day of judgment God will judge not only earthly things but celestial, and especially the sun and moon and stars, as having 'been the objects of idolatrous worship (see Deuteronomy 4:19; Daniel 8:10; Daniel 11:13). Compare Psalm 18:17; Jeremiah 25:30, where the words 'on high' are used to denote heaven. Aben Ezra supposes that by the phrase is meant angels, who preside over the governors and kings of the earth, in accordance with the ancient opinion that each kingdom was under the tutelage of guardian angels. To this Rosenmuller seems to assent, and to suppose that the beings thus referred to were evil spirits or demons to whom the kingdoms of the world were subject. Others, among whom is Grotius, have supposed that the reference is to the images of the sun, moon, and stars, which were erected in high places, and worshipped by the Assyrians. But probably the reference is to those who occupied places of power and trust in the ecclesiastical arrangement of Judea, the high priest and priests, who exercised a vast dominion over the nation, and who, in many respects, were regarded as elevated even over the kings and princes of the land. The comparison of rulers with the sun, moon, and stars, is common in the Scriptures; and this comparison was supposed especially to befit ecclesiastical rulers, who were regarded as in a particular manner the lights of the nation.

Upon the earth - Beneath, or inferior to those who had places of the highest trust and honor. The ecclesiastical rulers are represented as occupying the superior rank; the princes and rulers in a civil sense as in a condition of less honor and responsibility. This was probably the usual mode in which the ecclesiastical and civil offices were estimated in Judea.

21. host of … high ones—the heavenly host, that is, either the visible host of heaven (the present economy of nature, affected by the sun, moon, and stars, the objects of idolatry, being abolished, Isa 65:17; 60:19, simultaneously with the corrupt polity of men); or rather, "the invisible rulers of the darkness of this world," as the antithesis to "kings of the earth" shows. Angels, moreover, preside, as it were, over kingdoms of the world (Da 10:13, 20, 21). In that day; either when God shall punish the apostatical Jews, or about or after that time, or in a time known to God; for this phrase is oft used indefinitely, and without any respect to the time designed in the foregoing passages.

The high ones that are on high; the proud and potent enemies of God, and of his people, who possess the high places of the earth.

The kings of the earth; either,

1. The great monarchs of the world, who now scorn and trample upon God’s people; or,

2. The princes and rulers of Israel or Judah; for the name of king is frequently given in Scripture unto mean and inferior rulers, as Judges 1:7 1 Kings 20:1,12 Psa 119:46, and elsewhere. And it shall come to pass in that day,.... Not at the precise exact time the earth shall be dissolved, but previous to it, within that dispensation that is called the last day:

that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high; which is not to be understood of the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens, as some; nor of the visiting of angels, as Aben Ezra; nor of the punishment of Satan, and his principalities and powers, who are reserved to the judgment of the great day; much less of the people of the Jews, their kings and rulers; nor the great monarchs of the earth, the Assyrian, Chaldean, and others; but of antichrist and, his dignified clergy, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, &c. who are the "host or army of that high one" (z), as it may be rendered; of him that exalts himself above all that is called God, sitting in the high place in the temple of God, as if he was God; him, with all his mighty ones, will Christ, who is the true Jehovah, destroy with the breath of his mouth and the brightness of his coming; see 2 Thessalonians 2:4,

and the kings of the earth upon the earth; the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication with the whore of Rome; and who will make war with the Lamb, and shall be overcome by him, Revelation 17:2 or, "the kings of he earth" with "their earth" (a); both they and their land shall be visited.

(z) "super exercitum excelsi", Pagninus, Montanus, So Cocceius. (a) "cum terra ipsorum", Junius & Tremellius.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall {n} punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.

(n) There is no power so high or mighty, but God will visit him with his rods.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. the host of the high ones that are on high] Lit. the host of the height in the height. The “host of the height” is equivalent to the “host of heaven” (Jeremiah 33:22; 1 Kings 22:19; Nehemiah 9:6); but (as these passages shew) the expression may be used either of the stars or of the angels. It is impossible to say which sense is intended here, or whether both are combined. That celestial beings of some kind are meant appears clearly from the emphatic contrast with the “kings of the earth” in the second half of the verse. The heavenly bodies, conceived by the ancients as animated, and as influencing the destinies of men, were objects of false worship, and so might be represented as part of the evil system of things which has to be overthrown. On the other hand the idea of patron angels of the various nationalities appears in the later literature (Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:20-21; Daniel 12:1; Sir 17:17) and these, as mysteriously related to the earthly sovereignties, might also be thought of. (On a similar conception in Psalms 58, 82, see Cheyne’s Bampton Lectures, pp. 120, 337.)

21–23. The judgment on the powers of evil, and the enthronement of Jehovah on Mount Zion.Verses 21-23. - THE SUPRAMUNDANE JUDGMENT, AND FINAL ESTABLISHMENT OF GOD'S KINGDOM. Upon the destruction of the world there is to supervene a visitation of those who have been specially instrumental in producing the great wickedness that has brought the world to an end. These most guilty ones are classified under two heads: they consist of

(1) the host of the high ones that are on high (literally, "the host of the height in the height"); and

(2) the kings of the earth upon the earth. These are to be "gathered together in the pit," and "shut up in the prison," and finally, after a long imprisonment, punished (vers. 21, 22). Then the visible reign of the Lord of hosts is to be established "in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem," and he is to rule in the presence of his "ancients" in glory (ver. 23). Verse 21. - In that day. About that time - in connection with the series of events just related. The Lord shall punish the host of the high ones. It is generally allowed that these high ones, set m contrast as they are with the "kings of the earth," must belong to the class of supramundane intelligences, spiritual beings of a high order. Some have inclined to identify them with the "patron-spirits of nations," spoken of by Daniel (Daniel 10:13, 20, 21); but those "patron-spirits" are among the elect and unfallen angels; they protect nations, but do not lead them into sin or wickedness; they have no need to be "visited," and will certainly not be "shut up in prison" with the wicked kings of the earth. The spirits here spoken of must belong to the class of fallen spirits - they must be included among those "principalities and powers," of whom St. Paul speaks (Ephesians 6:12), whom he calls "the rulers of the darkness of this world," and to whom he ascribes "spiritual wickedness in high places." The punishment of such spirits is, perhaps, shadowed forth in the eighty-second psalm; it was distinctly taught in the Book of Enoch; and it is glanced at by St. Jude in his Epistle (ver. 6). And the kings. Kings, especially kings in the Oriental sense, have an enormous influence over the nations which they govern, and therefore a heavy responsibility. The kings of the nations are viewed here as having brought about the general corruption and wickedness which has necessitated the destruction of the earth. 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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