Isaiah 29:1
Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelled! add you year to year; let them kill sacrifices.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXIX.

(1) Woe to Ariel, to Ariel.—The name belongs to the same group of poetic synonyms as Rahab (Psalm 87:4; Psalm 89:10) and the Valley of Vision (Psalm 22:1). It may have been coined by Isaiah himself. It may have been part of the secret language of the prophetic schools, as Sheshach stood for Babel (Jer ), Rahab for Egypt (Isaiah 51:9), and in the language of later Rabbis, Edom, and in that of the Apocalypse, Babel, for Rome (Revelation 17:5). Modern language has, it will be remembered, like names of praise and scorn for England and France, though these (John Bull, the British Lion, Crapaud, and the Gallic Cock) scarcely rise to the level of poetry. “Ariel” has been variously interpreted as “the lion of God,” or “the hearth of God.” The first meaning has in its favour the use of the same word for men of special heroism in 2Samuel 23:20 (“ lion-like men,” as in the margin, “lions of God”), and perhaps in Isaiah 33:7 (see Note). The “lion” was, it may be noted, the traditional symbol of Judah (Revelation 5:5). In the words that follow, “the city where David dwelt,” the prophet interprets the mystic name for the benefit of his readers. The verb for “dwelt” conveys the sense of “encamping.” David had dwelt securely in the rock-fortress of Zion.

Add ye year to year.—The word implies the solemn keeping of the New Year festival. The people might keep that festival and offer many sacrifices, but this would not avail to ward off the tribulation which they deserved, and at which the prophet had hinted in the last verse of the preceding chapter.

Isaiah 29:1. Wo to Ariel — This word signifies a strong lion, or the lion of God, and is used concerning lion-like men, as it is rendered 1 Chronicles 11:22; and of God’s altar, as it is translated Ezekiel 43:15-16; which seems to be thus called, because it devoured and consumed the sacrifices put upon it, as greedily and as irresistibly as the lion doth his prey. “That Jerusalem is here called by this name,” says Bishop Lowth, “is very certain; but the reason of this name, and the meaning of it, as applied to Jerusalem, are very obscure and doubtful. Some, with the Chaldee, suppose it to be taken from the hearth of the great altar of burnt-offerings, which Ezekiel plainly calls by the same name; and that Jerusalem is here considered as the seat of the fire of God, אור אל, which should issue from thence to consume his enemies: compare Isaiah 31:9. Some, according to the common derivation of the word, suppose that it is called the lion of God, or the strong lion, on account of the strength of the place, by which it was enabled to resist and overcome all its enemies. There are other explanations of this name given, but none that seems to be perfectly satisfactory.” The city where David dwelt — The royal city, and seat of David and his posterity, which is probably here mentioned, because this was the ground of their confidence, and also to intimate that their relation to David, and their supposed interest in the promises made to him and to his seed, should not secure them from the destruction here threatened. Add ye year to year, &c. — The prophet speaks ironically: Go on year after year, and kill sacrifices at the appointed times, whereby you think to appease me; but all shall be in vain. For know, that God will punish you for your hypocritical worship, consisting of mere form, destitute of true piety. As the latter clause, חגים ינקפו, is literally, Let the feasts go round, it is probable this discourse was delivered at the time of some great feast.29:1-8 Ariel may signify the altar of burnt-offerings. Let Jerusalem know that outward religious services will not make men free from judgements. Hypocrites never can please God, nor make their peace with him. God had often and long, by a host of angels, encamped round about Jerusalem for protection and deliverance; but now he fought against it. Proud looks and proud language shall be brought down by humbling providences. The destruction of Jerusalem's enemies is foretold. The army of Sennacherib went as a dream; and thus the multitudes, that through successive ages fight against God's altar and worship, shall fall. Speedily will sinners awake from their soothing dreams in the pains of hell.Wo - (compare the note at Isaiah 18:1).

To Ariel - There can be no doubt that Jerusalem is here intended. The declaration that it was the city where David dwelt, as well as the entire scope of the prophecy, proves this. But still, it is not quiet clear why the city is here called "Ariel." The margin reads, 'O Ariel, that is, the lion of God.' The word (אריאל 'ărı̂y'ēl) is compounded of two words, and is usually supposed to be made up of ארי 'ărı̂y, "a lion," and אל 'ēl, God; and if this interpretation is correct, it is equivalent to a strong, mighty, fierce lion - where the word 'God' is used to denote greatness in the same way as the lofty cedars of Lebanon are called cedars of God; that is, lofty cedars. The "lion" is an emblem of strength, and a strong lion is an emblem of a mighty warrior or hero. 2 Samuel 23:20 : 'He slew two "lion-like" אריאל 'ărı̂y'êl men of Moab' 1 Chronicles 11:22. This use of the word to denote a hero is common in Arabic (see Bachart, "Hieroz.," i. 3. 1).

If this be the sense in which it is used here, then it is applied to Jerusalem under the image of a hero, and particularly as the place which was distinguished under David as the capital of a kingdom that was so celebrated for its triumphs in war. The word 'Ariel' is, however, used in another sense in the Scriptures, to denote an "altar" Ezekiel 43:15-16, where in the Hebrew the word is "Ariel." This name is given to the altar, Bachart supposes ("Hieroz.," i. 3. 1), because the altar of burnt-offering "devours" as it were the sacrifices as a lion devours its prey. Gesenius, however, has suggested another reason why the word is given to the altar, since he says that the word ארי 'ărı̂y is the same as one used in Arabic to denote a fire-hearth, and that the altar was so called because it was the place of perpetual burnt-offering. The name "Ariel," is, doubtless, given in Ezekiel to an altar; and it may be given here to Jerusalem because it was the place of the altar, or of the public worship of God. The Chaldee renders it, 'Wo to the altar, the altar which was constructed in the city where David dwelt.' It seems to me that this view better suits the connection, and particularly Isaiah 29:2 (see Note), than to suppose that the name is given to Jerusalem because it was like a lion. If this be the true interpretation, then it is so called because Jerusalem was the place of the burnt-offering, or of the public worship of God; the place where the fire, as on a hearth, continually burned on the altar.

The city where David dwelt - David took the hill of Zion from the Jebusites, and made it the capital of his kingdom 2 Samuel 5:6-9. Lowth renders this, 'The city which David besieged.' So the Septuagint: Ἐπολέμησε Epolemēse; and so the Vulgate, Expugnavit. The word חנה chânâh properly means "to encamp, to pitch one's tent" Genesis 26:17, "to station oneself." It is also used in the sense of encamping "against" anyone, that is, to make war upon or to attack (see Isaiah 29:3, and Psalm 27:3; 2 Samuel 12:28); and Jerome and others have supposed that it has this meaning here in accordance with the interpretation of the Septuagint and the Vulgate. But the more correct idea is probably that in our translation, that David pitched his tent there; that is, that he made it his dwelling-place.

Add ye year to year - That is, 'go on year after year, suffer one year to glide on after another in the course which you are pursuing.' This seems to be used ironically, and to denote that they were going on one year after another in the observance of the feasts; walking the round of external ceremonies as if the fact that David had dwelt there, and that that was the place of the great altar of worship, constituted perfect security. One of the sins charged on them in this chapter was "formality" and "heartlessness" in their devotions Isaiah 29:13, and this seems to be referred to here.

Let them kill sacrifices - Margin, 'Cut off the heads.' The word here rendered 'kill' (נקף nâqaph) may mean to smite; to hew; to cut down Isaiah 10:34; Job 19:26. But it has also another signification which better accords with this place. It denotes to make a circle, to revolve; to go round a place Joshua 6:3, Joshua 6:11; to surround 1 Kings 7:24; 2 Kings 6:14; Psalm 17:9; Psalm 22:17; Psalm 88:18. The word rendered 'sacrifices' (חגים chagiym) may mean a sacrifice Exodus 23:18; Psalm 118:27; Malachi 2:3, but it more commonly and properly denotes feasts or festivals Exodus 10:9; Exodus 12:14; Leviticus 23:39; Deuteronomy 16:10, Deuteronomy 16:16; 1 Kings 8:2, 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chronicles 7:8-9; Nehemiah 8:14; Hosea 2:11, Hosea 2:13. Here the sense is, 'let the festivals go round;' that is, let them revolve as it were in a perpetual, unmeaning circle, until the judgments due to such heartless service shall come upon you. The whole address is evidently ironical, and designed to denote that all their service was an unvarying repetition of heartless forms.

CHAPTER 29

Isa 29:1-24. Coming Invasion of Jerusalem: Its Failure: Unbelief of the Jews.

This chapter opens the series of prophecies as to the invasion of Judea under Sennacherib, and its deliverance.

1. Ariel—Jerusalem; Ariel means "Lion of God," that is, city rendered by God invincible: the lion is emblem of a mighty hero (2Sa 23:20). Otherwise "Hearth of God," that is, place where the altar-fire continually burns to God (Isa 31:9; Eze 43:15, 16).

add … year to year—ironically; suffer one year after another to glide on in the round of formal, heartless "sacrifices." Rather, "add yet another year" to the one just closed [Maurer]. Let a year elapse and a little more (Isa 32:10, Margin).

let … kill sacrifices—rather, "let the beasts (of another year) go round" [Maurer]; that is, after the completion of a year "I will distress Ariel."

ISAIAH CHAPTER 29.

The temple and city of Jerusalem destroyed, Isaiah 29:1-6. Her enemies unsatiable, Isaiah 29:7,8; their senselessness, Isaiah 29:9-12, and deep hypocrisy, Isaiah 29:13-17. The scorner and oppressor being cut off, the rest shall be converted, Isaiah 29:18-24.

Woe to Ariel! this word signifies a strong lion, or the lion of God; and is used concerning lion-like men, as it is rendered, 1 Chronicles 11:22; and of God’s altar, as it is rendered, Ezekiel 43:15,16, which seems to be thus called, because it devoured and consumed the sacrifices put upon it, as greedily and as irresistibly as the lion doth his prey. If the altar be here meant, it is put synecdochically for the temple, and the words may be rendered, Woe to Ariel, to Ariel of or in the city! or, and the city; for that conjunction is sometimes understood, as Isaiah 22:6 Habakkuk 3:11. And so the threatening is denounced both against the temple and against Jerusalem. But he seems rather to understand it of Jerusalem, as may be gathered,

1. From the next words, which seem to be added by way of apposition, to explain what he meant by that obscure and ambiguous term,

Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, even to the city!

2. From the following verses, which plainly declare that this Ariel is the place which God threatens that he would distress and fill with heaviness, Isaiah 29:2; and lay siege against her, Isaiah 29:3; and that the nations should fight against her, Isaiah 29:7; all which expressions agree much better to Jerusalem than to the altar. And this city might be called Ariel, or the strong lion, either,

1. For its eminent strength in regard of its situation and fortifications, by reason whereof it was thought almost impregnable, both by themselves and others, Lamentations 4:12. Or,

2. For its lionlike fierceness and cruelty, for which she is called the bloody city, Ezekiel 7:23 22:2, and, in effect, Isaiah 1:15 59:3 Jeremiah 19:4; and for which her princes are called lions, Ezekiel 19:2 Zephaniah 3:3. Or,

3. In respect of the altar of God, which was erected in and confined to that city, and in which the strength and glory of that city did chiefly consist.

The city where David dwelt; the royal city, and seat of David and his posterity; which is here mentioned as the ground of their confidence; and withal, it is implied that their relation to David, and their supposed interest in the promises made to him and to his seed, should not secure them from the destruction here threatened.

Add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices; go on in killing sacrifices from time to time, one year after another, whereby you think to appease me, and to secure yourselves; but all shall be in vain. Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt,.... Many Jewish writers by "Ariel" understand the altar of burnt offerings; and so the Targum,

"woe, altar, altar, which was built in the city where David dwelt;''

and so it is called in Ezekiel 43:15 it signifies "the lion of God"; and the reason why it is so called, the Jews say (i), is, because the fire lay upon it in the form of a lion; but rather the reason is, because it devoured the sacrifices that were laid upon it, as a lion does its prey; though others of them interpret it of the temple, which they say was built like a lion, narrow behind and broad before (k); but it seems better to understand it of the city of Jerusalem, in which David encamped, as the word (l) signifies; or "encamped against", as some; which he besieged, and took from the Jebusites, and fortified, and dwelt in; and which may be so called from its strength and fortifications, natural and artificial, and from its being the chief city of Judah, called a lion, Genesis 49:9 whose standard had a lion on it, and from whence came the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah; or rather from its cruelty in shedding the blood of the prophets, and was, as the Lord says, as a lion unto him that cried against him, Jeremiah 12:8 and so the words may be considered as of one calling to Jerusalem, and lamenting over it, as Christ did, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets", &c. Matthew 23:37 and the mention of David's name, and of his dwelling in it, is not only to point out what city is meant, and the greatness and glory of it; but to show that this would not secure it from ruin and destruction (m):

add ye year to year; which some understand of two precise years, at the end of which Jerusalem should be besieged by the army of Sennacherib; but that is not here meant. Cocceius thinks that large measure of time is meant, that one year is the length of time from David's dwelling in Jerusalem to the Babylonish captivity; and the other year from the time of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah to the destruction by the Romans, which is more likely; but rather the sense is, go on from year to year in your security and vain confidence; or keep your yearly feasts, and offer your yearly sacrifices; as follows:

let them kill sacrifices; the daily and yearly sacrifices; let the people bring them, and the priests offer them, for the time is coming when an end will be put to them; "the feasts shall be cut off": so the words may be rendered; the festivals shall cease, and be no more observed; and so the Targum,

"the festivities shall cease;''

or, feasts being put for lambs, so in Psalm 118:27 as Ben Melech observes, the sense is, their heads should be cut off (n).

(i) Yoma apud Jarchi in loc. (k) T. Bab. Middot, fol. 37. 1.((l) "castrametatus est", Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius; "castra habuit", Piscator. (m) The words are rendered by Noldius, "woe to Ariel, to Ariel: to the city in which David encamped"; and he observes, that some supply the copulative "and; woe to Ariel, and to the city", &c.; So making them distinct, which seems best to agree with the accents, and may respect the destruction both of their ecclesiastic and civil state; the temple being designed by "Ariel", and "Jerusalem" by the city. See Concord. Ebr. Part. p. 183. No. 842. (n) "agni excervicabuntur", Montanus; "excidentur", Vatablus; "jugulentur", Munster.

Woe to {a} Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; {b} let them kill sacrifices.

(a) Or Ariel: the Hebrew word Ariel signifies the Lion of God, and signifies the Altar, because the altar seemed to devour the sacrifice that was offered to God, as in Eze 43:16.

(b) Your vain confidence in your sacrifices will not last long.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. Jerusalem’s time of joyous security shall speedily come to an end. Ho Ariel, Ariel, city where David encamped! (R.V.). Of the word “Ariel” two explanations (both ancient) are given. (a) That which renders it “Lion of God” is undoubtedly the one most naturally suggested by the form of the word. It is also thought to be confirmed by the proper name ’ar’çlî in Genesis 46:16; Numbers 26:17; and the “lion-like men” (’ǎrîçl) of 2 Samuel 23:20; 1 Chronicles 11:22; although all these analogies are very doubtful (cf. ch. Isaiah 33:7). But is it suitable in the present context? Hardly, unless we take Isaiah 29:2 to mean that Jerusalem when driven to bay, will exhibit a prowess worthy of her mystic appellation; which is not at all the idea of the passage. The name is in any case a strange one for a city, and it would be difficult to account for its selection by Isaiah. (b) The other (and preferable) explanation is given by the Targum, and is supported by a word which occurs in two forms (har’çl and ’ǎrî’êl) in Ezekiel 43:15 f. It appears to mean “altar-hearth”; and occurs, probably in the same sense, in the inscription of the Moabite Stone. The translation here will be either “hearth of God” or (better) simply “altar-hearth.” How Isaiah was led to such a designation we shall see from Isaiah 29:2.

where David dwelt] R.V. encamped. Not “against which” David encamped, as the LXX. fancied (see on Isaiah 29:3), but which he occupied and fortified.

add ye year to year] i.e. “let a year or two more come and go”: cf. Isaiah 32:10. The discourse was probably delivered at the leading festival, the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the “turn of the year” (Exodus 34:22) in ancient Israel.

let them kill sacrifices] R.V. has the true rendering: let the feasts come round; “run their round”—but only a few times more.

ch. Isaiah 29:1-14. The announcement of Jehovah’s wonderful purpose regarding Jerusalem, and its reception on the part of the people

Under the second “Woe” (Isaiah 29:1) are grouped two oracles, which may have been originally independent; or they may be intimately connected, the second describing the effect of the first on the minds of Isaiah’s hearers.

i. Isaiah 29:1-8. The impending humiliation and deliverance of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, apostrophised by the mystic name of “Ariel,” is at present gay and careless and secure, the festal calendar follows its accustomed course, and this state of things may endure for a short time longer (1). But already in vision the prophet sees her beset by hosts of enemies, and reduced to the lowest depths of despair (2–4) when suddenly the Lord Himself, arrayed in the terrors of earthquake and tempest, appears in judgment (6), and in a moment the scene is changed. In the very hour of their triumph, the enemies of Zion are disappointed of their expectation, and vanish like a vision of the night (7, 8).

ii. Isaiah 29:9-14. A rebuke of the spiritual blindness and unbelief, and the hollow formal religion prevalent amongst all classes of the people.

(1) Isaiah 29:9-12. Jehovah has visited the leaders of the people with judicial blindness (9 f.); the consequence is that neither among the cultured nor the unlettered can the word of the Lord find entrance (11 f.).

(2) Isaiah 29:13-14. Because the popular religion has degenerated into a mechanical routine of traditional observances (13) it is necessary for Jehovah to adopt startling measures, transcending all human calculation and insight (14).Verses 1-4. - A WARNING TO JERUSALEM. Expostulation is followed by threats. The prophet is aware that all his preaching to the authorities in Jerusalem (Isaiah 28:14-22) will be of no avail, and that their adoption of measures directly antagonistic to the commands of God will bring on the very evil which they are seeking to avert, and cause Jerusalem to be actually besieged by her enemies. In the present passage he distinctly announces the siege, and declares that it will commence within a year. Verse 1. - Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! "Ariel' is clearly a mystic name for Jerusalem, parallel to "Sheshach" as a name for Babylon (Jeremiah 25:26) and "'Ir-ha-heres" as a name for Heliopolis (Isaiah 19:18). It is generally explained as equivalent to Art-El, "lion of God;" but Delitzsch suggests the meaning of "hearth of God," or "altar of God," a signification which "Ariel" seems to have in Ezekiel 43:15, 16. But there is no evidence that "Ariel" was ever employed in this sense before the time of Ezekiel. Etymologically, "Ariel" can only mean "lion of God," and the name would in this sense be sufficiently descriptive of the Jewish capital, which had always hitherto been a sort of champion of Jehovah - a warrior fighting his battles with a lion's courage and fierceness. Dwelt; literally, pitched his tent - an expression recalling the old tent-life of the Hebrews (comp. 1 Kings 12:16). And ye year to year; rather, a year to a year; i.e. the coming year to the present one. The intention is to date the commencement of the siege. It will fall within the year next ensuing. Let them kill sacrifices. The best modern authorities translate, "Let the feasts run their round" (Kay, Cheyne, Delitzsch); i.e. let there be one more round of the annual festival-times, and then let the enemy march in and commence the siege. The address of the prophet is here apparently closed. But an essential ingredient is still wanting to the second half, to make it correspond to the first. There is still wanting the fringe of promise coinciding with Isaiah 28:5, Isaiah 28:6. The prophet has not only to alarm the scoffers, that if possible he may pluck some of them out of the fire through fear (Judges 5:23); he has also to comfort believers, who yield themselves as disciples to him and to the word of God (Isaiah 8:16). He does this here in a very peculiar manner. He has several times assumed the tone of the mashal, more especially in chapter 26; but here the consolation is dressed up in a longer parabolical address, which sets forth in figures drawn from husbandry the disciplinary and saving wisdom of God. Isaiah here proves himself a master of the mashal. In the usual tone of a mashal song, he first of all claims the attention of his audience as a teacher of wisdom. V. 23 "Lend me your ear, and hear my voice; attend, and hear my address!" Attention is all the more needful, that the prophet leaves his hearers to interpret and apply the parable themselves. The work of a husbandman is very manifold, as he tills, sows, and plants his field. Vv. 24-26 "Does the ploughman plough continually to sow? to furrow and to harrow his land? Is it not so: when he levels the surface thereof, he scatters black poppy seed, and strews cummin, and puts in wheat in rows, and barley in the appointed piece, and spelt on its border? And He has instructed him how to act rightly: his God teaches it him." The ploughing (chârash) which opens the soil, i.e., turns it up in furrows, and the harrowing (siddēd) which breaks the clods, take place to prepare for the sowing, and therefore not interminably, but only so long as it necessary to prepare the soil to receive the seed. When the seed-furrows have been drawn in the levelled surface of the ground (shivvâh), then the sowing and planting begin; and this also takes place in various ways, according to the different kinds of fruit. Qetsach is the black poppy (nigella sativa, Arab. habbe soda, so called from its black seeds), belonging to the ranunculaceae. Kammōn was the cummin (cuminum cyminum) with larger aromatic seeds, Ar. kammūn, neither of them our common carraway (Kmmel, carum). The wheat he sows carefully in rows (sōrâh, ordo; ad ordinem, as it is translated by Jerome), i.e., he does not scatter it about carelessly, like the other two, but lays the grains carefully in the furrows, because otherwise when they sprang up they would get massed together, and choke one another. Nismân, like sōrâh, is an acc. loci: the barley is sown in a piece of the field specially marked off for it, or specially furnished with signs (sı̄mânı̄m); and kussemeth, the spelt (ζειά, also mentioned by Homer, Od. iv 604, between wheat and barley), along the edge of it, so that spelt forms the rim of the barley field. It is by a divine instinct that the husbandman acts in this manner; for God, who established agriculture at the creation (i.e., Jehovah, not Osiris), has also given men understanding. This is the meaning of v'yisserō lammishpât: and (as we may see from all this) He (his God: the subject is given afterwards in the second clause) has led him (Proverbs 31:1) to the right (this is the rendering adopted by Kimchi, whilst other commentators have been misled by Jeremiah 30:11, and last of all Malbim Luzzatto, "Cosi Dio con giustizia corregge;" he would have done better, however, to say, con moderazione).
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