Isaiah 40:19
The workman melts a graven image, and the goldsmith spreads it over with gold, and casts silver chains.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) The workman melteth . . .—The reign of Ahaz, not to speak of that of Manasseh, must have supplied the prophet with his picture of the idol factory not less fully than if he had lived in Babylon or Nineveh.

Spreadeth it over with gold.—The image of lead was covered over, as in the well-known story of Phidias’s “Zeus,” with plates of gold. The “silver chains” fastened it to the wall.

Isaiah 40:19-20. The workman melteth a graven image — He melteth some base metal into a mould which giveth it the form of an image, which afterward is graven or carved to make it the more exact and pleasing likeness of some creature. Thus the image owes all its excellence to the earth for the matter of it, and to the art of man for the fashion of it. The goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold — Beaten out into leaves or plates; and casteth silver chains — For ornaments; or rather, for use, to fasten it to a wall or pillar, lest it should fall down and be broken in pieces. Which is spoken by way of derision of such ridiculous deities as needed such supports. He that hath no oblation — That can hardly procure money to buy the meanest sacrifice; chooseth a tree, &c. — He is so mad upon his idols, that he will find money to procure the choicest materials, and the best artist to make his idol; to prepare a graven image, &c. — Which, after all this cost, cannot stir one step out of its place to give him any help.40:18-26 Whatever we esteem or love, fear or hope in, more than God, that creature we make equal with God, though we do not make images or worship them. He that is so poor, that he has scarcely a sacrifice to offer, yet will not be without a god of his own. They spared no cost upon their idols; we grudge what is spent in the service of our God. To prove the greatness of God, the prophet appeals to all ages and nations. Those who are ignorant of this, are willingly ignorant. God has the command of all creatures, and of all created things. The prophet directs us to use our reason as well as our senses; to consider who created the hosts of heaven, and to pay our homage to Him. Not one fails to fulfil his will. And let us not forget, that He spake all the promises, and engaged to perform them.The workman - The Hebrew word denotes an artificer of any kind, and is applied to one who engraved on wood or stone Exodus 28:2; to a workman in iron, brass, stone, wood Exodus 35:35; Deuteronomy 27:15; or an artisan, or artificer in general. It here refers manifestly to a man who worked in the metals of which idols were commonly made. Those idols were sometimes made of wood, sometimes of clay, but more frequently, as they are at present in India, of metal. It became, undoubtedly, a regular trade or business thus to make idol-gods.

Melteth - Casts or founds.

A graven image - (פסל pesel). This word commonly denotes an image carved or graven from wood Exodus 20:4; Judges 17:3; Isaiah 44:15, Isaiah 44:17; but it is also frequently applied to a molten image, or one that is cast from metals Jeremiah 10:14; Jeremiah 51:17. It is used in this sense here; as there is an incongruity in the idea of casting, or melting a graven image.

And the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold - Idols were frequently overlaid with gold or silver. Those which were in the temples of the gods were probably commonly made in this way, and probably those also which were made for private use, as far as it could be afforded. The word here rendered 'goldsmith,' however, does not of necessity man a worker in gold, but a smith in general, or a worker in any kind of metals.

And casteth silver chains - For the idol. These were not to fasten it, but for the purpose of ornament. The general principle seems to have been to decorate their idols with that which was regarded as the highest ornament among the people; and as chains were used in abundance as a part of their personal ornaments among the Orientals (see the notes at Isaiah 3:23), so they made use of the same kind of ornaments for their idols. The idols of the Hindoos now are lavishly decorated in this manner.

19. graven—rather, an image in general; for it is incongruous to say "melteth" (that is, casts out of metal) a graven image (that is, one of carved wood); so Jer 10:14, "molten image."

spreadeth it over—(See on [780]Isa 30:22).

chains—an ornament lavishly worn by rich Orientals (Isa 3:18, 19), and so transferred to their idols. Egyptian relics show that idols were suspended in houses by chains.

The workman melteth a graven image; he melteth some base metal into a mould, which giveth it the form of an image, which afterwards is graven or carved to make it more exact and amiable. Thus the image oweth all its excellency to the earth for the matter of it, and to the art of man for the form or fashion of it.

Spreadeth it over with gold, beaten out into leaves or plates.

Casteth silver chains; either for ornaments; or rather for use, to fasten it to a wall or pillar, lest it should fall down, and be broken in pieces; which is spoken in way of scorn and derision of such ridiculous deities as needed such supports. The workman melteth a graven image,.... Or, "the founder"; he melts some sort of metal, as iron, brass, copper, or lead, which he casts into a mould for an image, and afterwards graves, or gets it graved:

and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold; or, "the finer"; he stretches out plates of gold, and covers it with them, so that it looks as if it was made of solid gold, and deceives the eyes of men; such stupidity and vanity are there in mortals to believe that there can be deity in such a piece of workmanship!

and casteth silver chains to put about the graven image, either for ornament, or rather to fasten it to some wall or pillar, that it may stand upright, and may not be taken down and stole away, or blown down with the wind, or fall of itself and be broken; thus ridiculing the weakness of these idols, and the folly of the makers and worshippers of them. The Targum is,

"the silversmith joins silver chains to it.''

The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19. melteth a graven image] R.V. The graven image, a workman melted it. The word péṣel means strictly a “graven image,” but is used several times as here of an image in general.

overlayeth it with gold] The idol consists of a core of brass which is cast by the “workman,” and then handed over to the goldsmith to be covered with a plating of gold (see ch. Isaiah 30:22).

and casteth silver chains] A perplexing clause, which the LXX. omits. The word rendered “casteth” is the same as that for “goldsmith” (strictly “assayer”), the participle being translated by a finite verb. But such a construction is incorrect: and besides the verb is never used except in the sense of “test” or “purify.” It is only when the partic. has become a noun that it assumes the general sense of worker in metal. Hence Dillmann proposes to render “and with silver chains a smelter (sc. covers it).” But this is exceedingly harsh. The word for “chains” is also of doubtful meaning, and altogether the clause must be pronounced hopelessly obscure.Verse 19. - The workman melteth a graven image; rather, the workman casteth an image (comp. Isaiah 41:7; Isaiah 44:9-17; Isaiah 46:6, 7). Israel's tendency to idolatry has been touched on in the earlier prophecies once or twice (Isaiah 2:8, 20; Isaiah 31:7); but in the later chapters idolatry is assailed with a frequency, a pungency, and a vigour that are new, and that imply a change, either in the prophet's circumstances or in his standpoint. Perhaps it is enough to suppose that, placing himself ideally among the captives, Isaiah sees that the Babylonian idolatry will be, or at any rate may be, a snare to them, and provides an antidote against the subtle poison. The special antidote which he employs is ridicule, and the first ground of his ridicule is the genesis or formation of an image. It is made by man himself, out of known material substances. Either a figure is cast in some inferior metal, and then coated with gold and finished with the graving tool, or a mere block of wood is taken and cut into shape. Can it be supposed that such things are "likenesses" of God, or that he is comparable to them? Casteth silver chains; as ornaments to be worn by the images, which were often dressed (see Thucyd., 2:13; Baruch 6:9-12). A second question follows in Isaiah 40:13, Isaiah 40:14. "Who regulated the Spirit of Jehovah, and (who) instructed Him as His counsellor? With whom took He counsel, and who would have explained to Him and instructed Him concerning the path of right, and taught Him knowledge, and made known to Him a prudent course?" The first question called to mind the omnipotence of Jehovah; this recalls His omniscience, which has all fulness in itself, and therefore precludes all instruction from without. "The Spirit of Jehovah" is the Spirit which moved upon the waters at the creation, and by which chaos was reduced to order. "Who," inquires this prophet - "who furnished this Spirit with the standard, according to which all this was to be done?" תּכּן as in Isaiah 40:12, to bring into conformity with rule, and so to fit for regulated working. Instead of mercha tifchah athnach, which suggests the Targum rendering, "quis direxit spiritum? Jehova" (vid., Proverbs 16:2), it would be more correct to adopt the accentuation tifchah munach athnach (cf., Exodus 21:24; Exodus 23:9), and there are certain codices in which we find this (see Dachselt). In Isaiah 40:13 we might follow the Septuagint translation, καὶ τίς αὐτοῦ σύμβουλος ἐγένετο ὃς σύμβιβᾶ (Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16, συμβιβάσει) αὐτόν, but in this case we miss the verb היה. The rendering we have given above is not so harsh, and the accentuation is indifferent here, since silluk is never written without tifchahif only a single word precedes it. In Isaiah 40:14 the reciprocal נוע is connected with את equals אם. The futt. cons. retain their literal meaning: with whom did He consult, so that he supplied Him with understanding in consequence (hēbhı̄n, generally to understand, here in a causative sense). The verbs of instruction are sometimes construed with בּ of the lesson taught, sometimes with a double accusative. In reply to the questions in Isaiah 40:13, Isaiah 40:14, which are essentially one, Israel must acknowledge that its God is the possessor of absolute might, and also of absolute wisdom.
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