Isaiah 41:15
Behold, I will make you a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) A new sharp threshing instrument.—The instrument described is a kind of revolving sledge armed with two-edged blades, still used in Syria, and, as elsewhere (Micah 4:13), is the symbol of a crushing victory. The next verse continues the image, as in Jeremiah 15:7; Jeremiah 51:2.

41:10-20 God speaks with tenderness; Fear thou not, for I am with thee: not only within call, but present with thee. Art thou weak? I will strengthen thee. Art thou in want of friends? I will help thee in the time of need. Art thou ready to fall? I will uphold thee with that right hand which is full of righteousness, dealing forth rewards and punishments. There are those that strive with God's people, that seek their ruin. Let not God's people render evil for evil, but wait God's time. It is the worm Jacob; so little, so weak, so despised and trampled on by every body. God's people are as worms, in humble thoughts of themselves, and in their enemies' haughty thoughts of them; worms, but not vipers, not of the serpent's seed. Every part of God's word is calculated to humble man's pride, and to make him appear little in his own eyes. The Lord will help them, for he is their Redeemer. The Lord will make Jacob to become a threshing instrument. God will make him fit for use, new, and having sharp spikes. This has fulfilment in the triumphs of the gospel of Christ, and of all faithful followers of Christ, over the power of darkness. God has provided comforts to supply all their wants, and to answer all their prayers. Our way to heaven lies through the wilderness of this world. The soul of man is in want, and seeks for satisfaction; but becomes weary of seeking that in the world, which is not to be had in it. Yet they shall have a constant supply, where one would least expect it. I will open rivers of grace, rivers of living water, which Christ spake of the Spirit, Joh 7:38,39. When God sets up his church in the Gentile wilderness, there shall be a great change, as if thorns and briers were turned into cedars, and fir-trees, and myrtles. These blessings are kept for the poor in spirit, who long for Divine enlightening, pardon, and holiness. And God will render their barren souls fruitful in the grace of his Spirit, that all who behold may consider it.Behold, I will make thee ... - The object of the illustration in this verse and the following is, to show that God would clothe them with power, and that all difficulties in their way would vanish. To express this idea, the prophet uses an image derived front the mode of threshing in the East, where the heavy wain or sledge was made to pass over a large pile of sheaves, and to bruise out the grain, and separate the chaff, so that the wind would drive it away. The phrase, 'I will make thee,' means, 'I will constitute, or appoint thee,' that is, thou shalt be such a threshing instrument. It is not that God would make such a sledge or wain for them, but that they should be such themselves; they should beat down and remove the obstacles in the way as the threshing wain crushed the pile of grain.

A new sharp threshing instrument - A threshing wain, or a corn-drag. For a description of this, compare the notes at Isaiah 28:27-28.

Having teeth - Or, with double edges. The Hebrew word is applied to a sword, and means a two-edged sword Psalm 149:6. The instrument here referred to was serrated, or so made as to cut up the straw and separate the grain from the chaff. The following descriptions from Lowth and Niebuhr, may serve still further to illustrate the nature of the instrument here referred to. 'The drag consisted of a sort of frame of strong planks made rough at the bottom with hard stones or iron; it was drawn by horses or oxen over the corn-sheaves spread on the floor, the driver sitting upon it. The wain was much like the drag, but had wheels of iron teeth, or edges like a saw. The axle was armed with iron teeth or serrated wheels throughout: it moved upon three rollers armed with iron teeth or wheels, to cut the straw. In Syria, they make use of the drag, constructed in the very same manner as above described.

This not only forced out the grain, but cut the straw in pieces, for fodder for the cattle, for in the eastern countries they have no hay. The last method is well known from the law of Moses, which forbids the ox to be muzzled, when he treadeth out the grain Deuteronomy 25:4.' (Lowth) 'In threshing their corn, the Arabians lay the sheaves down in a certain order, and then lead over them two oxen, dragging a large stone. This mode of separating the ears from the straw is not unlike that of Egypt. They use oxen, as the ancients did, to beat out their grain, by trampling upon the sheaves, and dragging after them a clumsy machine. This machine is not, as in Arabia, a stone cylinder, nor a plank with sharp stones, as in Syria, but a sort of sledge, consisting of three rollers, suited with irons, which turn upon axles. A farmer chooses out a level spot in his fields, and has his grain carried thither in sheaves, upon donkeys or dromedaries.

Two oxen are then yoked in a sledge, a driver gets upon it, and drives them backward and forward upon the sheaves, and fresh oxen succeed in the yoke from time to time. By this operation, the chaff is very much cut down; the whole is then winnowed, and the pure grain thus separated. This mode of threshing out the grain is tedious and inconvenient; it destroys the chaff, and injures the quality of grain.' (Niebuhr) In another place Niebuhr tells us that two parcels or layers of corn are threshed out in a day; and they move each of them as many as eight times, with a wooden fork of five prongs, which they call meddre. Afterward, they throw the straw into the middle of the ring, where it forms a heap, which grows bigger and bigger; when the first layer is threshed, they replace the straw in the ring, and thresh it as before. Thus, the straw becomes every time smaller, until at last it resembles chopped straw. After this, with the fork just described, they cast the whole some yards from thence, and against the wind, which, driving back the straw, the grain and the ears not threshed out fall apart from it and make another heap. A man collects the clods of dirt, and other impurities, to which any grain adheres, and throws them into a sieve. They afterward place in a ring the heaps, in which a good many entire ears are still found, and drive over them, for four or five hours together, a dozen couples of oxen, joined two and two, till, by absolute trampling, they have separated the grains, which they throw into the air with a shovel to cleanse them.

Thou shalt thresh the mountains - The words 'mountains' and 'hills' in this verse seem designed to denote the kingdoms greater and smaller that should be opposed to the Jews, and that should become subject to them (Rosenmuller). Grotius supposes that the prophet refers particularly to the Medes and Babylonians. But perhaps the words are used to denote simply difficulties or obstacles in their way, and the expression may mean that they would be able to overcome all those obstacles, and to subdue all that opposed them, as if in a march they should crush all the mountains, and dissipate all the hills by an exertion of power.

15. God will make Israel to destroy their enemies as the Eastern corn-drag (Isa 28:27, 28) bruises out the grain with its teeth, and gives the chaff to the winds to scatter.

teeth—serrated, so as to cut up the straw for fodder and separate the grain from the chaff.

mountains … hills—kingdoms more or less powerful that were hostile to Israel (Isa 2:14).

New; and therefore sharper and stronger than another which hath been much used.

Sharp threshing instrument having teeth; such as were usual in those times and places, of which See Poole "Isaiah 28:25", See Poole "Isaiah 28:28".

The mountains; the great and lofty potentates of the world, which set themselves against thee; such persons being frequently expressed in Scripture under the notion of

hills and mountains. Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument, having teeth,.... The Vulgate Latin version renders it, "as a new threshing cart, having teeth like saws"; and the Septuagint and Arabic versions, "as the new threshing wheels of a cart, in the manner of saws"; for corn with the Jews was threshed out by drawing a cart with wheels over it, which wheels were stuck with teeth or spikes of iron; see Isaiah 28:27, or by a cart or sledge filled with stones to press it down, and at the bottom with iron teeth, which being drawn to and fro by oxen over the sheaves, separated the grain from the husk. Beckius has given a figure of this instrument (t), and some such like instrument is still made use of in the eastern countries, as Monsieur Thevenot (u) relates;

"at Damascus (he says), and almost all Turkey over, they thresh not the corn, but after it is cut down they put it up in heaps, and round the heaps they spread some of it four or five feet broad, and two feet thick; this being done, they have a kind of sled, made of four pieces of timber in square, two of which serve for an axle tree to two great rollers, whose ends enter into these two pieces of timber, so as that they easily turn in them: round each of these rollers, there are three iron pinions, about half a foot thick, and a foot in diameter, whose pinions are full of teeth, like so many saws: there is a seat placed upon the two chief pieces of the timber, where a man sits, and drives the horses, that draw the machine, round about the lay of corn that is two foot thick; and that cutting the straw very small, makes the corn come out of the ears without breaking it, for it slides betwixt the teeth of the iron: when the straw is well cut, they put in more, and then separate the corn from that bashed straw, by tossing all up together in the air with a wooden shovel; for the wind blows the straw a little aside, and the corn alone falls straight down--in some places that machine is different, as I have seen (adds he), in Mesopotamia; where, instead of those pinions round the rollers, they have many pegs of iron, about six inches long, and three broad, almost in the shape of wedges, but somewhat broader below than above, fastened without any order into the rollers, some straight, and others crossways; and this engine is covered with boards over the irons, whereon he that drives the horse sits--they take the same course in Persia.''

Some apply this to the apostles of Christ, compared to oxen that tread out the corn; and who not only ploughed and sowed, but threshed in hope, and were instruments of bringing down every "high thing", comparable to mountains and hills, "that exalted itself against the knowledge of God", and of reducing it "to the obedience of Christ"; see 1 Corinthians 9:9, but it seems rather to refer to Constantine, a Christian emperor, brought forth and brought up in the church; the same with the man child the woman brought forth, caught up into heaven, raised to the Roman empire, and who ruled the nations, the Pagan ones, with a rod of iron, Revelation 12:5 and then the church, who before was but as a worm, weak and contemptible, now became powerful and formidable; and therefore compared to a new threshing instrument, heavy, sharp, and cutting:

thou shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff; which metaphorically design kingdoms and states; so the Targum,

"thou shalt slay the people, and consume kingdoms"; so Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it of kings and princes; and Aben Ezra particularly of the Babylonians; but these were not destroyed by the people of God, but by the Persians: it is better therefore to understand it of the Roman emperors, and of the Roman empire conquered by Constantine, and destroyed as Pagan, and when every mountain and island were moved out of their places, Revelation 12:7, and the prophecy may have a further accomplishment in the destruction of Rome Papal, and all the antichristian states, when the kingdom and interest of Christ, signified by a stone cut out without hands, shall break in pieces, and consume all other kingdoms: which shall become like the chaff of summer threshing floors, and the wind shall carry them away, and no place be found for them, as follows; see Daniel 2:34, this threshing of the nations is ascribed to the church, though only as an instrument, the work is the Lord's, as in Isaiah 41:20.

(t) Beckius, notes on the Targum on 1 Chronicles 20.3. p. 210. (u) Travels, Part 2. B. 1. c. 5. p. 24.

Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the {n} mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.

(n) I will make you able to destroy all your enemies no matter how mighty, and this chiefly is referred to the kingdom of Christ.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. The threshing instrument (môrâg) is a heavy sledge studded on its under surface with sharp stones or knives, drawn by oxen over the floor. See the Note in Driver’s Joel and Amos, pp. 227 f. It is not a different implement from the ḥârûç of ch. Isaiah 28:27. Indeed this word ḥârûç is the one here translated “sharp”; and it may be doubted whether it has not intruded into the text as a variant to môrâg (Duhm). The instrument to which Israel is likened is “new” and “many-toothed” (lit. “possessor of mouths” i.e. edges), therefore in the highest state of efficiency.

the mountains … the hills] A figure for formidable enemies; perhaps also for obstacles in general. Comp. ch. Isaiah 21:10; Micah 4:13.Verse 15. - I will make thee a new sharp threshing-instrument. Israel is to be more than sustained. Strength is to be given her to take the aggressive, and to subdue her enemies under her. She is to "thresh them" and "beat them small," as with a threshing-instrument (comp. 2 Kings 13:7; Amos 1:3; Micah 4:13). In the literal sense, no earlier accomplishment of this prophecy can be pointed out than the time of the Maccahean war. Metaphorically, it may be said that Israel began to conquer the world when her literature became known to the Greeks through the expedition of Alexander the Great, and completed her conquest when the Roman empire succumbed to the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Having teeth. Threshing-instruments of the kind described are still in use in Syria (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' p. 539) and Asia Minor (Fellows, 'Asia Minor,' p. 70). The corn is spread out on the ground, and the machine, which is sometimes armed with sharp stones, sometimes with saws, is dragged ever it. The Arabic name is still noreg, a modification of the Hebrew moreg. Thou shalt thresh the mountains... the hills; i.e. "thou shalt subdue proud and mighty foes" (Delitzsch). The proof adduced by Jehovah of His own deity closes here. But instead of our hearing whether the nations, with which He has entered upon the contest, have any reply to make, the address turns to Israel, upon which deliverance dawns from that very quarter, from which the others are threatened with destruction. "And thou, Israel my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham my friend, thou whom I have laid hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from the corners thereof, and said to thee, Thou art my servant, I have chosen and not despised thee; fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not afraid, for I am thy God: I have chosen thee, I also help thee, I also hold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." The ו before ואתּה connects together antitheses, which show themselves at once to be antitheses. Whereas the nations, which put their trust in idols that they themselves had made, were thrown into alarm, and yielded before the world-wide commotions that had originated with the eastern conqueror, Israel, the nation of Jehovah, might take comfort to itself. Every word here breathes the deepest affection. The address moves on in soft undulating lines. The repetition of the suffix ך, with which אשׁר forms a relative of the second person, for which we have no equivalent in our language (Ges. 123, Anm. 1), gives to the address a pressing, clinging, and, as it were, loving key-note. The reason, which precedes the comforting assurance in Isaiah 41:10, recals the intimate relation in which Jehovah had placed Himself towards Israel, and Israel towards Himself. The leading thought, "servant of Jehovah," which is characteristic of chapters 40-46, and lies at the root of the whole spirit of these addresses, more especially of their Christology, we first meet with here, and that in a popular sense. It has both an objective and a subjective side. On the one hand, Israel is the servant of Jehovah by virtue of a divine act; and this act, viz., its election and call, was an act of pure grace, and was not to be traced, as the expression "I have chosen and not despised thee' indicates, to any superior excellence or merit on the part of Israel. On the contrary, Israel was so obscure that Jehovah might have despised it; nevertheless He had anticipated it in free unmerited love with this stamp of the character indelibilis of a servant of Jehovah. On the other hand, Israel was the servant of Jehovah, inasmuch as it acted out what Jehovah had made it, partly in reverential worship of this God, and partly in active obedience. את־ה עבד, i.e., "serving Jehovah," includes both liturgical service (also עבד absolutely, Isaiah 19:23) and the service of works. The divine act of choosing and calling is dated from Abraham. From a Palestinian point of view, Ur of Chaldaea, within the old kingdom of Nimrod, and Haran in northern Mesopotamia, seemed like the ends and corners of the earth ('ătsı̄lı̄m, remote places, from 'âtsal, to put aside or apart). Israel and the land of Israel were so inseparably connected, that whenever the origin of Israel was spoken of, the point of view could only be taken in Palestine. To the far distant land of the Tigris and Euphrates had Jehovah gone to fetch Abraham, "the friend of God" (James 2:23), who is called in the East even to the present day, chalil ollah, the friend of God. This calling of Abraham was the furthest terminus a quo of the existence of Israel as the covenant nation; for the leading of Abraham was providentially appointed with reference to the rise of Israel as a nation. The latter was pre-existent in him by virtue of the counsel of God. And when Jehovah adopted Abraham as His servant, and called him "my servant" (Genesis 26:24), Israel, the nation that was coming into existence in Abraham, received both the essence and name of a "servant of Jehovah." Inasmuch then as, on looking back to its past history, it would not fail to perceive that it was so thoroughly a creation of divine power and grace, it ought not to be fearful, and look about with timidity and anxiety; for He who had presented Himself at the very beginning as its God, was still always near. The question arises, in connection with the word אמּצתּי, whether it means to strengthen (Isaiah 35:3; Psalm 89:22), or to lay firm hold of, to attach firmly to one's self, to choose. We decide in favour of the latter meaning, which is established by Isaiah 44:14, cf., Psalm 80:16, Psalm 80:18. The other perfects affirm what Jehovah has ever done, and still continues to do. In the expression "by the right hand of my righteousness," the justice or righteousness is regarded pre-eminently on its brighter side, the side turned towards Israel; but it is also regarded on its fiery side, or the side turned towards the enemies of Israel. It is the righteousness which aids the oppressed congregation against its oppressors. The repeated אף heaps one synonym upon another, expressive of the divine love; for ו simply connects, גּם appends, אף heaps up (cumulat). Language is too contracted to hold all the fulness of the divine love; and for this reason the latter could not find words enough to express all that it desired.
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