Isaiah 51:20
Your sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of your God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) As a wild bull . . .—Better, as an antelope. The picture explains that of Isaiah 51:17. The sons cannot help the mother, for they, too, have drunk of the same cup of fury, and lie like corpses in the open places of the city. (Comp. Lamentations 2:12.)

51:17-23 God calls upon his people to mind the things that belong to their everlasting peace. Jerusalem had provoked God, and was made to taste the bitter fruits. Those who should have been her comforters, were their own tormentors. They have no patience by which to keep possesion of their own souls, nor any confidence in God's promise, by which to keep possession of its comfort. Thou art drunken, not as formerly, with the intoxicating cup of Babylon's idolatries, but with the cup of affliction. Know, then, the cause of God's people may for a time seem as lost, but God will protect it, by convincing the conscience, or confounding the projects, of those that strive against it. The oppressors required souls to be subjected to them, that every man should believe and worship as they would have them. But all they could gain by violence was, that people were brought to outward hypocritical conformity, for consciences cannot be forced.Thy sons - Jerusalem is here represented as a mother. Her sons, that is, her inhabitants, had become weak and prostrate everywhere, and were unable to afford consolation.

They lie at the head of all the streets - The 'head' of the streets is the same which in Lamentations 2:19; Lamentations 4:1, is denominated 'the top of the streets.' The head or top of the streets denotes, doubtless, the beginning of a way or street; the corner from which other streets diverge. These would be public places, where many would be naturally assembled, and where, in time of a siege, they would be driven together. This is a description of the state produced by famine. Weak, pale, and emaciated, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, in the places of public concourse, would lie prostrate and inefficient, and unable to meet and repel their foes. They would be overpowered with famine, as a wild bull is insnared in a net, and rendered incapable of any effort. This reters undoubtedly to the famine that would be produced during the siege of the Babylonians. The state of things under the siege has been also described by Jeremiah:

Arise, cry out in the night;

In the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart before the Lord;

Lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children,

That faint for hunger at the top of every street.

The young and old lie on the ground in the streets,

My virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword;

Thou hast slain them in the day of thy anger;

Thou hast killed, and not pitied.

- Lamentations 2:19-21

The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of

His mouth for thirst;

The young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them;

continued...

20. head of all … streets—(La 2:19; 4:1).

wild bull—rather, "oryx" [Jerome], or gazelle [Gesenius], or wild goat [Bochart]; commonly in the East taken in a net, of a wide sweep, into which the beasts were hunted together. The streets of cities in the East often have gates, which are closed at night; a person wishing to escape would be stopped by them and caught, as a wild animal in a net.

Thy sons have fainted; they are so far from being able to comfort thee, as was said, Isaiah 51:18, that they themselves faint away for want of comfort, and through famine.

They lie dead by famine, or the sword of the enemy,

at the head of all the streets; where men enter in or go out of the streets, where the enemy found them either opposing their entrance, or running out of them to make an escape.

As a wild bull in a net: those of them who are not slain are struggling for life; and although they murmur at God, and fight with men, yet they cannot prevail or escape. Thy sons have fainted,.... Through want of food, or at the desolation made, and have no spirit in them to appear in the interest of true religion:

they lie at the head of all the streets; emaciated by famine, and not able to walk, but drop down in the streets, and there lie panting and pining away; or slain by the enemy; or with the famine, and the sword, as Aben Ezra, and none to bury them; so the dead bodies of the witnesses shall lie in the street of the great city unburied, Revelation 11:8.

as a wild bull in a net; that is slain, being taken; or, if alive, however it flings about and struggles, cannot extricate itself: so it may denote such that survive the calamity, yet held under the power of the enemy; and though inwardly fretting, and very impatient, cannot help themselves, no more than such a creature taken in a toil or net; which Aben Ezra takes to be a fowl, to which a net best agrees; and the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "as the oryx snared"; which Drusius says is the name of a bird; though it is used for a wild goat. So Aristotle (w) makes mention of it as of the goat kind, and says it has two hoofs, or is cloven footed, and has one horn; and Bochart (x) takes it to be the same with the unicorn of the Scriptures, or the "monoceros"; and, according to some writers (y), it is a very fierce and bold creature, and not easily taken; and therefore it is no wonder, when it is in the net, that it strives, though in vain, and till it is weary, to get out of it, and yet is obliged to lie there. But Kimchi says the word here used signifies a wild ox or bull (z), as we render it: in Hebrew it is called "tho" or "thoa", and very probably is the same with the "thoos" mentioned by Aristotle (a) and Pliny (b), and is rendered a wild ox in Deuteronomy 14:5, where it is reckoned among sheep, goats, and deer. It is strange that the Septuagint should render it, "as beet half boiled"; or flaccid and withering, as the Syriac and Arabic versions, taking it for an herb: and as much out of the way is the Targum, which renders it,

"as broken bottles:''

they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God; that is, Jerusalem's sons, the members of the church of God, professors of religion, now full of calamities, which may seem to flow from the wrath of God, and be rebukes in fury, when they are only in love, Revelation 3:19 and from whence they shall be delivered, and their enemies punished, as follows.

(w) Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 1.((x) Hierozoic. l. 3. c. 27, 28. (y) Oppian. de Cyneget. l. 2. apud Gataker. & Sanctium in loc. "saevus oryx", Martial. l. 13. Epigr. 95. (z) And so it is explained in Gloss. in T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol. 117. 1.((a) Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 17. (b) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 34.

Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of thy God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. Thy sons have swooned] lit. “were shrouded,”—a usual oriental metaphor (Amos 8:13; Jonah 4:8; Nahum 3:11). For the idea cf. Lamentations 2:11; Lamentations 2:19; Lamentations 2:21. at the head of all the streets] Lamentations 2:19; Lamentations 4:1.

as a wild bull in a net] R.V., rightly, as an antelope (Deuteronomy 14:5) in a net, exhausted by its vain struggles to get free.

they are full of the fury &c.] The children have drunk of the same cup as their mother.Verse 20. - Thy sons have fainted, they lie; rather, thy sons fainted; they lay. The prophet describes the siege and capture of Jerusalem as past, because his standpoint is the time of the Captivity. He depicts the inhabitants of Jerusalem as "faint" through famine, and so weak that they lie prostrate about the streets. As a wild bull in a net; rather, like a gazelle in a net - panting, exhausted, incapable of the hast resistance. They are full of the fury of the Lord; i.e. the fury of the Lord has been fully poured out upon them. In the second half the promise commences again, but with more distinct reference to the oppression of the exiles and the sufferings of Jerusalem. Jehovah Himself begins to speak now, setting His seal upon what is longed and hoped for. "I am your comforter: who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a mortal who will die, and of a son of man who is made a blade of grass; that thou shouldst forget Jehovah thy Creator, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth; that thou shouldst be afraid continually all the day of the fury of the tormentor, as he aims to destroy? and where is the fury of the tormentor left? He that is bowed down is quickly set loose, and does not die to the grave, and his bread does not fail him; as truly as I Jehovah am thy God, who frighteneth up the sea, so that its waves roar: Jehovah of hosts is His name." הוּא after אנכי אנכי is an emphatic repetition, and therefore a strengthening of the subject (αὐτὸς ἐγώ), as above, in Isaiah 51:10, in אתּ־היא. From this major, that Jehovah is the comforter of His church, and by means of a minor, that whoever has Him for a comforter has no need to fear, the conclusion is drawn that the church has no cause to fear. Consequently we cannot adopt Knobel's explanation, "How small thou art, that thou art afraid." The meaning is rather, "Is it really the case with thee (i.e., art thou then so small, so forsaken), that thou hast any need to fear" (fut. consec., according to Ges. 129, 1; cf., ki, Exodus 3:11; Judges 9:28)? The attributive sentence tâmūth (who will die) brings out the meaning involved in the epithet applied to man, viz., 'ĕnōsh (compare in the Persian myth Gayomard, from the old Persian gaya meretan, mortal life); חציר equals כּחציר (Psalm 37:2; Psalm 90:5; Psalm 103:15; compare above, Isaiah 40:6-8) is an equation instead of a comparison. In Isaiah 51:12 the address is thrown into a feminine form, in Isaiah 51:13 into a masculine one; Zion being the object in the former, and (what is the same thing) Israel in the latter: that thou forgettest thy Creator, who is also the almighty Maker of the universe, and soarest about in constant endless alarm at the wrath of the tormentor, whilst he is aiming to destroy (pichad, contremiscere, as in Proverbs 28:14; ka'ăsher as in Psalm 66:7; Numbers 27:14, lit., according as; kōnēn, viz., his arrows, or even his bow, as in Psalm 11:2; Psalm 7:13, cf., Isaiah 21:13). We must not translate this quasi disposuisset, which is opposed to the actual fact, although syntactically possible (Job 10:19; Zechariah 10:6). The question with which the fear is met, "And where is the fury of the tormentor?" looks into the future: "There is not a trace of him to be seen, he is utterly swept away." If hammētsı̄q signifies the Chaldean, Isaiah 51:14, in which the warning passes into a promise, just as in the first half the promise passed into a warning, is not to be understood as referring to oppression by their own countrymen, who were more heathenish than Israelitish in their disposition, as Knobel supposes; but tsō‛eh (from tsâ‛âh, to stoop or bend) is an individualizing description of the exiles, who were in captivity in Babylon, and some of them actually in prison (see Isaiah 42:7, Isaiah 42:22). Those who were lying there in fetters, and were therefore obliged to bend, hastened to be loosed, i.e., would speedily be set at liberty (the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus may be referred to here); they would not die and fall into the pit (constr. praegnans), nor would their bread fail; that is to say, if we regard the two clauses as the dissection of one thought (which is not necessary, however, though Hitzig supports it), "he will not die of starvation." The pledge of this is to be found in the all-sufficiency of Jehovah, who throws the sea into a state of trembling (even by a threatening word, geârâh; רגע is the construct of the participle, with the tone upon the last syllable, as in Leviticus 11:7; Psalm 94:9 : see Br's Psalter, p. 132, from râga‛, tremefacere), so that its waves roar (cf., Jeremiah 31:35, and the original passage in Job 26:12).
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