Isaiah 33:18
Your heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) Thine heart shall meditate terror—i.e., shall recall the memory of the past evil days, as a dream that had passed away, leaving behind it the thankful joy which rises out of such recollections.

Where is the scribe?—Then, in those times of panic, each Assyrian official was an object of dread. There was the “scribe,” who fixed the amount of tribute to be paid by each village or landowner; the receiver” (literally, weigher), who weighed the gold and silver as it was brought in for payment; the “counter of towers,” who formed his plans for the operation of the “siege.” In Psalm 48:13 the same phrase is used of those who defend the city.

33:15-24 The true believer watches against all occasions of sin. The Divine power will keep him safe, and his faith in that power will keep him easy. He shall want nothing needful for him. Every blessing of salvation is freely bestowed on all that ask with humble, believing prayer; and the believer is safe in time and for ever. Those that walk uprightly shall not only have bread given, and their water sure, but they shall, by faith, see the King of kings in his beauty, the beauty of holiness. The remembrance of the terror they were in, shall add to the pleasure of their deliverance. It is desirable to be quiet in our own houses, but much more so to be quiet in God's house; and in every age Christ will have a seed to serve him. Jerusalem had no large river running by it, but the presence and power of God make up all wants. We have all in God, all we need, or can desire. By faith we take Christ for our Prince and Saviour; he reigns over his redeemed people. All that refuse to have Him to reign over them, make shipwreck of their souls. Sickness is taken away in mercy, when the fruit of it is the taking away of sin. If iniquity be taken away, we have little reason to complain of outward affliction. This last verse leads our thoughts, not only to the most glorious state of the gospel church on earth, but to heaven, where no sickness or trouble can enter. He that blotteth out our transgressions, will heal our souls.Thine heart - The heart of the people of Jerusalem.

Shall meditate terror - This is similar to the expression in Virgil:

- forsan et haec olim meminisse jurabit.

AEn. ii.203.

The sense here is, 'You shall hereafter think over all this alarm and distress. When the enemy is destroyed, the city saved, and the king shall reign in magnificence over all the nation then enjoying peace and prosperity, you shall recall these days of terror and alarm, and shall then ask with gratitude and astonishment, Where are they who caused this alarm? Where are now they who so confidently calculated on taking the city? They are all gone - and gone in a manner suited to excite astonishment and adoring gratitude.' 'Sweet is the recollection,' says Rosenmuller, 'of dangers that are passed.'

Where is the scribe? - How soon, how suddenly has he vanished! The word scribe here (ספר sı̂phēr) evidently refers to some prominent class of officers in the Assyrian army. It is from ספר sâphar, to count, to number, to write; and probably refers to a secretary, perhaps a secretary of state or of war, or an inspector-general, who had the charge of reviewing an army 2 Kings 25:19; Jeremiah 37:15; Jeremiah 52:25.

Where is the receiver? - Margin, as in Hebrew, 'Weigher.' Vulgate, 'Where is he that ponders the words of the law?' The Septuagint, 'Where are the counselors (ουμβουλεύοντες sumbouleuontes)?' Probably the word refers to him who weighed the tribute, or the pay of the Soldiers; and means, doubtless, some officer in the army of the Assyrian; probably one whose office it was to have charge of the military chest, and to pay the army.

Where is he that counted the towers? - That is, who made an estimate of the strength of Jerusalem - either Sennacherib, or someone appointed by him to reconnoitre and report on the means which the city bad of defense (compare Isaiah 36:4).

18. meditate—on the "terror" caused by the enemy, but now past.

where, &c.—the language of the Jews exulting over their escape from danger.

scribe—who enrolled the army [Maurer]; or, who prescribed the tribute to be paid [Rosenmuller]; or, who kept an account of the spoil. "The principal scribe of the host" (2Ki 25:19; Jer 52:25). The Assyrian records are free from the exaggerations of Egyptian records. Two scribes are seen in every Assyrian bas-relief, writing down the various objects brought to them, the heads of the slain, prisoners, cattle, sheep, &c.

receiver—"weigher," Margin. Layard mentions, among the Assyrian inscriptions, "a pair a scales for weighing the spoils."

counted … towers—he whose duty it was to reconnoitre and report the strength of the city to be besieged.

Thine heart shall meditate terror: this is either,

1. A premonition concerning a future judgment, as if he said, Before these glorious promises shall be accomplished, thou shalt be brought into great straits and troubles. Or rather,

2. A thankful acknowledgment of deliverance from a former danger; as if he had said, When thou art delivered, thou shalt, with pleasure and thankfulness, recall to mind thy former terrors and miseries.

Where is the scribe, & c.? these words are either,

1. Words of gratulation, and insultation over the enemy. Thou shalt then say, Where are the great officers of the Assyrian host? They are no where, they are not, they are dealt or slain. Or rather,

2. The words of men dismayed and confounded, such as proceeded from the Jews in the time of their distress, and are here remembered to aggravate the present mercy. For the officers here mentioned seem not to be those of the Assyrian army, who were actually fighting against the Jews and Jerusalem, (for then he would rather have mentioned the captains of the host, as the Scripture commonly doth in these cases, than the scribes and receivers, &c.,) but rather of the Jews in Jerusalem who, upon the approach of Sennacherib, began to make military preparations for the defence of the city, and to choose such officers as were necessary and usual for that end; such as these were, to wit,

the scribe, whom we call muster-master, who was to make and keep a list of the soldiers, and to call them together, as occasion required.

The receiver; who received and laid out the money for the charges of the war; and he

that counted the towers, who surveyed all the parts of the city, and considered what towers or fortifications were to be made or repaired for the security of the city. And unto these several officers the people resorted, with great distraction and confusion, to acquaint them with all occurrences, or to quicken them to their several works, or to transact matters with them, as occasion required. Thine heart shall meditate terror,.... shall recollect, and think of with pleasure and thankfulness, the terror they were formerly seized with, when surrounded and oppressed by their enemies, particularly at the time of the slaying of the witnesses, which will be a terrible time to the church and people of God; but when that is over, they will call it to mind with gratitude, for deliverance from it (e). This is commonly understood of the terror and consternation the Jews were in when besieged by the Assyrian army; and so the following words,

Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers? are taken to be either the words of the Jews in their distress, calling for such and such officers to go to their respective posts, and do their duty; as the "scribe", or muster master, to see that he has his full quota of men; the "receiver" or treasurer, and paymaster of the soldiers, to give the men money and wages, that they may be encouraged to fight; and "the counter of towers", or engineer, to take care of the fortifications, and give directions about them: or else, as now insulting the Assyrians after the defeat of them, inquiring where were now such and such officers in their army, whom before they dreaded, signifying they were all perished and gone. The apostle cites these words, or at least alludes to them, 1 Corinthians 1:20 when he says, "where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?" triumphing over the wise doctors of the Jews, and the philosophers of the Gentiles, as not being able to face and withstand the power and wisdom of the Gospel; See Gill on 1 Corinthians 1:20. So here, when the people of God will be recovered from their fright, and be brought out of their low estate, and will have ascended into heaven, or be come into a glorious church state, they will then triumph over their enemies, who will be no more, and say, where are the pope and his clergy? his cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, monks, friars, &c.; what are become of them? they are all gone, and will be no more. The Targum is,

"thine heart shall think of great things; where are the scribes? where are the princes? where are the counters? let them come, if they can count the numbers of the slain, the heads of mighty armies;''

which may well enough be illustrated by Revelation 11:13.

(e) So Ben Melech interprets it,

"thine heart, which was meditating terror before this.''

Thy heart {y} shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers?

(y) Before this liberty comes you will think that you are in great danger: for the enemy will so sharply assail you that one will cry Where is the clerk that writes the names of them who are taxed? another, Where is the receiver? another will cry for him that values the rich houses, but God will deliver you from this fear.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. shall meditate terror] Or, better, shall muse on the terror (R.V.),—strive to realise its various circumstances which have so completely disappeared.

Where is the scribe?… receiver] Render with R.V. where is he that counted, where is he that weighed; the officers who exacted the tribute.

that counted the towers] calculating the strength of the city with a view to attack it.

18, 19. In those days it will require an effort of imagination to recall the dangers of the present, from which the nation shall have been so suddenly and so marvellously saved.Verse 18. - Thine heart shall meditate terror; i.e. "thou shalt look back upon the past time of terror, the dreadful period of the siege, and contrast it with thy present happiness." Mr. Cheyne quotes as an illustration, appositely enough, Virgil's "Et haec olim meminisse juvabit." Where is the scribe... the receiver?.... he that counted the towers? Where now are the Assyrian officials - the scribe, who registered the amount of the tribute and booty ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 476); the receiver, who weighed the gold and silver carefully in a balance (Layard, 'Nineveh and its Remains,' vol. 2. p. 377); and the engineer officer who surveyed the place to be besieged, estimated its strength, and counted its towers? All have perished or have fled away in dismay. The prophet announces this to them, and now tells openly what has been exhibited to him in his mental mirror as the purpose of God. "And nations become as lime burnings, thorns cut off, which are kindled with fire." The first simile sets forth the totality of the destruction: they will be so completely burned up, that nothing but ashes will be left, like the lump of lime left at the burning of lime. The second contains a figurative description of its suddenness: they have vanished suddenly, like dead brushwood, which is cut down in consequence, and quickly crackles up and is consumed (Isaiah 5:24, cf., Isaiah 9:17): kâsach is the Targum word for zâmar, amputare, whereas in Arabic it has the same meaning as sâchâh, verrere.
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