Isaiah 5:17
Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Then shall the lambs feed after their manner.—Better, feed even as on their pasture. The meaning is clear enough. The lands that have been gained by oppression shall, in the day of retribution, become common pasture ground instead of being reserved for the parks and gardens of the rich; and strangers—i.e., invaders, Philistines, Assyrians, or nomadic tribes—shall devour the produce (Isaiah 1:7). Possibly, however, the “lambs” may stand for the poor and meek, as in contrast with the “fat ones” of the earth. The LXX. version follows a different reading in the second clause, and gives “kids” instead of “strangers.”

5:8-23 Here is a woe to those who set their hearts on the wealth of the world. Not that it is sinful for those who have a house and a field to purchase another; but the fault is, that they never know when they have enough. Covetousness is idolatry; and while many envy the prosperous, wretched man, the Lord denounces awful woes upon him. How applicable to many among us! God has many ways to empty the most populous cities. Those who set their hearts upon the world, will justly be disappointed. Here is woe to those who dote upon the pleasures and the delights of sense. The use of music is lawful; but when it draws away the heart from God, then it becomes a sin to us. God's judgments have seized them, but they will not disturb themselves in their pleasures. The judgments are declared. Let a man be ever so high, death will bring him low; ever so mean, death will bring him lower. The fruit of these judgments shall be, that God will be glorified as a God of power. Also, as a God that is holy; he shall be owned and declared to be so, in the righteous punishment of proud men. Those are in a woful condition who set up sin, and who exert themselves to gratify their base lusts. They are daring in sin, and walk after their own lusts; it is in scorn that they call God the Holy One of Israel. They confound and overthrow distinctions between good and evil. They prefer their own reasonings to Divine revelations; their own devices to the counsels and commands of God. They deem it prudent and politic to continue profitable sins, and to neglect self-denying duties. Also, how light soever men make of drunkenness, it is a sin which lays open to the wrath and curse of God. Their judges perverted justice. Every sin needs some other to conceal it.Then shall the lambs feed - This verse is very variously interpreted. Most of the Hebrew commentators have followed the Chaldee interpretation, and have regarded it as desired to console the pious part of the people with the assurance of protection in the general calamity. The Chaldee is, 'Then the just shall feed, as it is said, to them; and they shall be multiplied, and shall possess the property of the inpious.' By this interpretation, "lambs" are supposed, as is frequently the case in the Scriptures, to represent the people of God. But according to others, the probable design of the prophet is, to denote the state of utter desolation that was coming upon the nation. Its cities, towns, and palaces would be destroyed, so as to become a vast pasturage where the flocks would roam at pleasure.

After their manner - Hebrew, 'According to their word,' that is, under their own "command," or at pleasure. They would go where they pleased without being obstructed by fences.

And the waste places of the fat ones - Most of the ancient interpreters suppose, that the waste places of the fat ones here refer to the desolate habitations of the rich people; in the judgments that should come upon the nation, they would become vacant, and strangers would come in and possess them. This is the sense given by the Chaldee. The Syriac translates it, 'And foreigners shall devour the ruins which are yet to be restored.' If this is the sense, then it accords with the "first" interpretation suggested of the previous verse - that the pious should be fed, and that the proud should be desolate, and their property pass into the hands of strangers. By others (Gesenius, etc.), it is supposed to mean that strangers, or foreigners, would come in, and fatten their cattle in the desert places of the nation. The land would be so utterly waste, that they would come there to fatten their cattle in the rank and wild luxuriancy that would spontaneously spring up. This sense will suit the connection of the passage; but there is some difficulty in making it out from the Hebrew. The Hebrew which is rendered 'the waste places of the fat ones,' may, however, be translated 'the deserts that are rich - rank - luxuriant.' The word "stranger" denotes "foreigners;" or those who are not "permanent" dwellers in the land.

17. after their manner—literally, "according to their own word," that is, at will. Otherwise, as in their own pasture [Gesenius]: so the Hebrew in Mic 2:12. The lands of the Scenite tent dwellers (Jer 35:7). Arab shepherds in the neighborhood shall roam at large, the whole of Judea being so desolate as to become a vast pasturage.

waste … fat ones—the deserted lands of the rich ("fat," Ps 22:29), then gone into captivity; "strangers," that is, nomad tribes shall make their flocks to feed on [Maurer]. Figuratively, "the lambs" are the pious, "the fat ones" the impious. So tender disciples of Jesus Christ (Joh 21:15) are called "lambs"; being meek, harmless, poor, and persecuted. Compare Eze 39:18, where the fatlings are the rich and great (1Co 1:26, 27). The "strangers" are in this view the "other sheep not of the" the Jewish "fold" (Joh 10:16), the Gentiles whom Jesus Christ shall "bring" to be partakers of the rich privileges (Ro 11:17) which the Jews ("fat ones," Eze 34. 16) fell from. Thus "after their (own) manner" will express that the Christian Church should worship God in freedom, released from legal bondage (Joh 4:23; Ga 5:1).

Then; when God shall have finished that work of judgment upon the ungodly, he will extend mercy to a remainder. This is very usual in this prophet, in the midst of his threatenings, to insert something for the support of believers.

The lambs; the poor and harmless people, who shall be left in the land when the rich are carried into captivity, as it fell out, 2 Kings 25:12.

Feed after their manner; or, by their fold, as this word is manifestly used, Micah 2:12, the only place of Scripture, except this, in which this word is found. The waste places; the lands left by their owners, who were either slain or carried into captivity.

Of the fat ones; of the rich and great men, so called Psalm 22:29 78:31 Isaiah 10:16.

Strangers; the poor Israelites, who were left to be vine-dressers and husbandmen, 2 Kings 25:12, who are called strangers, because they were so in reference to that land, not being the proper owners of it, nor related to them; as the Israelites of other tribes are called strangers, in opposition to the Levites, as Numbers 1:51, and elsewhere; yea, and the Levites are so called, in opposition to the seed of Aaron, Numbers 16:40. Then shall the lambs feed after their manner,.... That is, the people of God, the disciples of Christ, either apostles and ministers of the Gospel, whom he sent forth as lambs among wolves, Luke 10:3 who fed the flock of Christ after their usual manner, and as directed by him; even with knowledge and understanding, by the ministry of the word, and administration of ordinances; or the people of God fed by them, who are comparable to lambs for their harmlessness and innocence; and who feed in green pastures, "according as they are led"; as the word used may be rendered (f); or "according to their word"; the doctrine of the ministers of the Gospel, by whom they are instructed and directed to feed on Christ, as he is held forth in the word and ordinances. The Targum is,

"and the righteous shall be fed as is said of them;''

and so Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it of the righteous:

and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat; that is, the Gentiles, who are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise; the other sheep that were not of the Jewish fold, Ephesians 2:12 these shall come in the room of the fat ones of the land of Judea, the rulers, elders, Scribes, and Pharisees; and feed on those pastures which were despised and left desolate by them; enjoy the Gospel they put away from them, and the ordinances of it, which they rejected. The Targum is,

"and they shall be multiplied, and the substance of the ungodly shall the righteous possess.''

(f) "juxta ductum suum", Montanus, Vatablus; "juxta verbum ipsorum", Forerius.

Then shall {x} the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.

(x) God comforts the poor lambs of his Church, who had been strangers in other countries, promising that they would dwell in these places again, of which they had been deprived by the fat and cruel tyrants.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. The obverse of the picture in Isaiah 5:14. The city, with all its tumult and gaiety, has vanished into the underworld, and now flocks are seen grazing amidst the ruins,—an image of awful desolation rather than of “idyllic peace.”

Then shall the lambs … manner] And lambs shall grate as in their pasture (R.V.). strangers] sojourners—perhaps “nomadic shepherds.” But the reading of the LXX. (ἄρνες = lambs) can be explained by a slight change in the text and is on some grounds to be preferred.Verse 17. Then shall the lambs feed. Dr. Kay takes the "lambs" to be the remnant of Israel that survived the judgment, who will feed freely, cared for by the good Shepherd; but the parallelism so generally affected by Isaiah seems to require a meaning more consonant with the later clause of the verse. Most commentators, therefore, expound the passage literally, "Then shall lambs feed [on the desolated estates of the covetous]" (see vers. 8-10). After their manner; or, after their own guidance; i.e. at their pleasure, as they list (so Lowth and Rosenmüller). And the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat. Goim, i.e. nomad tribes, shall consume the produce of the wasted fields once possessed by the Hebrew grandees. Ewald proposes to make the verse immediately follow ver. 10; but this is not necessary. The occupation of their lands by wandering tribes, Arabs and others, was a part of the punishment that fell on all the nobles, not on those only who accumulated large estates. The second woe, for which the curse about to fall upon vinedressing (Isaiah 5:10) prepared the way by the simple association of ideas, is directed against the debauchees, who in their carnal security carried on their excesses even in the daylight. "Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning to run after strong drink; who continue till late at night with wine inflaming them!" Boker (from bâkar, bakara, to slit, to tear up, or split) is the break of day; and nesheph (from nâshaph, to blow) the cool of the evening, including the night (Isaiah 21:4; Isaiah 59:10); 'ichr, to continue till late, as in Proverbs 23:30 : the construct state before words with a preposition, as in Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 28:9, and many other passages (Ges. 116, 1). Shēcâr, in connection with yayin, is the general name for every other kind of strong drink, more especially for wines made artificially from fruit, honey, raisins, dates, etc., including barley-wine (οἶνος κρίθινος) or beer (ἐκ κριθῶν μέθυ in Aeschylus, also called βρῦτον βρυτόν ζῦθος ζύθος, and by many other names), a beverage known in Egypt, which was half a wine country and half a beer country, from as far back as the time of the Pharaohs. The form shēcâr is composed, like ענב (with the fore-tone tsere), from shâcar, to intoxicate; according to the Arabic, literally to close by stopping up, i.e., to stupefy.

(Note: It is a question, therefore, whether the name of sugar is related to it or not. The Arabic sakar corresponds to the Hebrew shecâr; but sugar is called sukkar, Pers. 'sakkar, 'sakar, no doubt equivalent to σἀκχαρι (Arrian in Periplus, μἐλι τὸ καλἀμινον τὸ λεγὀμενου σἀκχαρι), saccharum, an Indian word, which is pronounced Carkarâ in Sanscrit and sakkara in Prakrit, and signifies "forming broken pieces," i.e., sugar in grains or small lumps (brown sugar). The art of boiling sugar from the cane was an Indian invention (see Lassen, Indische Alterthumskunde, i. 269ff.). The early Egyptian name for beer is hek (Brugsch, Recueil, p. 118); the demotic and hieratic name henk, the Coptic henke. The word ζῦθος ζὐθος) is also old Egyptian. In the Book of the Dead (79, 8) the deceased says, "I have taken sacrificial cakes from the table, I have drunk seth-t in the evening." Moses Stuart wrote an Essay upon the Wines and Strong Drinks of the Ancient Hebrews, which was published in London (1831), with a preface by J. Pye Smith.)

The clauses after the two participles are circumstantial clauses (Ewald, 341, b), indicating the circumstances under which they ran out so early, and sat till long after dark: they hunted after mead, they heated themselves with wine, namely, to drown the consciousness of their deeds of darkness.

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