Isaiah 52:4
For thus said the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) My people went down . . .—Stress is laid on the unprovoked character of the oppression in the case both of Egypt and the Assyrian invaders Sargon and Sennacherib. It is possible that Assyria may be used in its wider sense as including Babylon. If so, the fact tends to the conclusion that the book was written at a time when the kings of Assyria included Babylon in their titles. Probably, however, the prophet refers to the deliverance from the army of Sennacherib as a pledge of the deliverance from Babylon.

Isaiah 52:4-6. My people went down into Egypt — Where they had protection and sustenance, and therefore owed subjection to the king of Egypt. And yet when he oppressed them I punished him severely, and delivered them out of his hands. And the Assyrian oppressed them — The king of Babylon, who is called the king of Assyria, (2 Kings 23:29,) as also the Persian emperor is called, (Ezra 6:22,) because it was one and the same empire which was possessed, first by the Assyrians, then by the Babylonians, and afterward by the Persians. Without cause — Without any real ground or colour, by mere force invading their land, and carrying them away into captivity, Now therefore what have I here — Why (speaking after the manner of men) do I sit still here, and not go to Babylon to punish the Babylonians, and to deliver my people? Or, What honour have I by suffering this injury to be done to my people? That my people is taken away for naught — Were carried away captive by the Babylonians, without any provocation or pretence of right? They that rule over them make them to howl — By their tyrannical and unmerciful usage of them; and my name continually is blasphemed — The Babylonians blaspheme me, as if I wanted either power or goodwill to save my people out of their hands. Therefore my people shall know my name — They shall have sensible experience of my infinite power and goodness in fighting for them. They shall know in that day — When I shall redeem them; which work was begun by the return of the Jews from Babylon, and afterward carried on, and at last perfected, by the coming of the Messiah; that I am he that doth speak — That these promises are not the words of a weak, or fickle, or deceitful man, but of him who is omnipotent, unchangeable, and a covenant-keeping God.52:1-12 The gospel proclaims liberty to those bound with fears. Let those weary and heavy laden under the burden of sin, find relief in Christ, shake themselves from the dust of their doubts and fears, and loose themselves from those bands. The price paid by the Redeemer for our salvation, was not silver or gold, or corruptible things, but his own precious blood. Considering the freeness of this salvation, and how hurtful to temporal comfort sins are, we shall more value the redemption which is in Christ. Do we seek victory over every sin, recollecting that the glory of God requires holiness in every follower of Christ? The good news is, that the Lord Jesus reigns. Christ himself brought these tidings first. His ministers proclaim these good tidings: keeping themselves clean from the pollutions of the world, they are beautiful to those to whom they are sent. Zion's watchmen could scarcely discern any thing of God's favour through the dark cloud of their afflictions; but now the cloud is scattered, they shall plainly see the performance. Zion's waste places shall then rejoice; all the world will have the benefit. This is applied to our salvation by Christ. Babylon is no place for Israelites. And it is a call to all in the bondage of sin and Satan, to use the liberty Christ has proclaimed. They were to go with diligent haste, not to lose time nor linger; but they were not to go with distrustful haste. Those in the way of duty, are under God's special protection; and he that believes this, will not hasten for fear.For thus saith the Lord God - In order to show them that he could redeem them without money, God reminds them of what had been done in former times. The numerous captives in Egypt, whose services were so valuable to the Egyptians, and whom the Egyptians were so unwilling to suffer to depart, he had rescued by his own power, and had delivered for ever from that bondage. The idea here is, that with the same ease he could rescue the captives in Babylon, and restore them to their own land without a price.

My people went down - That is, Jacob and his sons. The phrase 'went down,' is applied to a journey to Egypt, because Judea was a mountainous and elevated country compared with Egypt, and a journey there was in fact a descent to a more level and lower country.

To sojourn there - Not to dwell there permanently, but to remain there only for a time. They went in fact only to remain until the severity of the famine should have passed by, and until they could return with safety to the land of Canaan.

And the Assyrians oppressed them without cause - A considerable variety has existed in the interpretation of this passage. The Septuagint renders it, 'And to the Assyrians they were carried by force.' Some have supposed that this refers to the oppressions that they experienced in Egypt, and that the name 'Assyrian' is here given to Pharaoh. So Forerius and Cajetan understand it. They suppose that the name, 'the Assyrian,' became, in the apprehension of the Jews, the common name of that which was proud, oppressive, and haughty, and might therefore be used to designate Pharaoh. But there are insuperable objections to this. For the name 'the Assyrian' is not elsewhere given to Pharaoh in the Scriptures, nor can it be supposed to be given to him but with great impropriety. It is not true that Pharaoh was an Assyrian; nor is it true that the Israelites were oppressed by the Assyrians while they remained in Egypt. Others have supposed that this refers to Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans in general, and that the name 'the Assyrian' is given them in a large and general sense, as ruling over that which constituted the empire of Assyria, and that the prophet here refers to the calamities which they were suffering in Babylon. But the objection to this is not the less decisive.

It is true that Babylon was formerly a part or province of Assyria, and true also that in the time of the Jewish captivity it was the capital of the kingdom of which the former empire of Assyria became a subject province. But the name Babylonian, in the Scriptures, is kept distinct from that of Assyrian, and they are not used interchangeably. Nor does the connection of the passage require us to understand it in this sense. The whole passage is in a high degree elliptical, and something must be supplied to make out the sense. The general design of it is, to show that God would certainly deliver the Jews from the captivity at Babylon without money. For this purpose, the prophet appeals to the former instances of his interposition when deliverance had been effected in that way. A paraphrase of the passage, and a filling up of the parts which are omitted in the brief and abrupt manner of the prophet, will show the sense. 'Ye have been sold for nought, and ye shall be ransomed without price.

As a proof that I can do it, and will do it, remember that my people went down formerly to Egypt, and designed to sojourn there for a little time, and that they were there reduced to slavery, and oppressed by Pharaoh, but that I ransomed them without money, and brought them forth by my own power. Remember, further, how often the Assyrian has oppressed them also, without cause. Remember the history of Sennacherib, Tiglath-pileser, and Salmaneser, and how they have laid the land waste, and remember also how I have delivered it from these oppressions. With the same certainty, and the same ease, I can deliver the people from the captivity at Babylon.' The prophet, therefore, refers to different periods and events; and the idea is, that God had delivered them when they had been oppressed alike by the Egyptian, and by the Assyrians, and that he who had so often interposed would also rescue them from their oppression in Babylon.

4. My people—Jacob and his sons.

went down—Judea was an elevated country compared with Egypt.

sojourn—They went there to stay only till the famine in Canaan should have ceased.

Assyrian—Sennacherib. Remember how I delivered you from Egypt and the Assyrian; what, then, is to prevent Me from delivering you out of Babylon (and the mystical Babylon and the Antichrist in the last days)?

without cause—answering to "for naught" in Isa 52:5; it was an act of gratuitous oppression in the present case, as in that case.

My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; where they had protection and sustenance, and therefore owed subjection to the king of Egypt. And yet when he oppressed them I punished him severely, and delivered them out of his hands. Which is easily understood from the following words. And; or, but; for here is an opposition made between these two cases.

The Assyrian; the king of Babylon, who is called the king of Assyria, 2 Kings 23:29, compared with Isaiah 24:7, as also the Persian emperor is called, Ezra 6:22, because it was one and the same empire, which was possessed, first by the Assyrians, then by the Babylonians, and afterwards by the Persians. Oppressed them without cause; without any such ground or valour, by mere force invading their land, and carrying them away into captivity. For although it be said that God gave this land and people into his hand, 2 Chronicles 36:11, by his counsel and providence; yet that was neither known to nor regarded by the king of Babylon, nor was it a good and lawful title, God’s word, and not his providence, being the rule by which men’s rights are determined; otherwise a robber hath a right to my purse, which he cannot take from me upon the highway without God’s providence. For thus saith the Lord God,.... The Lord confirms what he had before said of redeeming his people without money, who had been sold for nothing, by past instances of his deliverance of them:

my people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; Jacob and his family went down there of their own accord, where they were supplied with food in a time of famine, and settled in a very fruitful part of it; but when they were oppressed, and cried to the Lord, he appeared for them, and delivered them:

and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause; which some understand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who they say was an Assyrian, or so called, because of his power and cruelty; or it being usual to call any enemy of the Jews an Assyrian: or rather the words may be rendered, "but the Assyrian", &c. Pharaoh had some pretence for what he did; the Israelites came into his country, he did not carry them captive; they received many benefits and favours there, and were settled in a part of his dominions, so that he might claim them as his subjects, and refuse to dismiss them; but the Assyrians had nothing to do with them; could not make any pretence why they should invade them, and oppress them; and therefore if the Lord had delivered them from the one, he would also deliver them from the other. This may be understood of the several invasions and captivities by Pul, Tiglathpileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, and even Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; Babylon having been the metropolis of Assyria, and a branch of the Assyrian empire, though now translated to the Chaldeans: or the sense is, and the Assyrians also oppressed Israel, as well as the Egyptians, without any just reason, and I delivered them out of their hands; and so I will redeem my church and people out of antichristian bondage and slavery.

For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went {d} down in times past into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian {e} oppressed them without cause.

(d) When Jacob went there in times of famine.

(e) The Egyptians might pretend some reason to oppress my people because they went there and remained among them, but the Assyrians have no title to excuse their tyranny by, and therefore I will punish them more than I did the Egyptians.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. For aforetime render with R.V. at the first, at the outset of its history.

without cause] i.e. probably, “for nought,” without having acquired any right over Israel by services rendered to Jehovah. The meaning can hardly be that Israel suffered innocently.Verse 4. - My people went down... into Egypt ... the Assyrian oppressed them. Israel had experienced three captivities. They "went down" voluntarily into Egypt, on invitation, to sojourn, and were there cruelly and unjustly reduced to a servile condition (Exodus 1:13, 14). They (or a great part of them) were violently carried into captivity by the Assyrian kings, Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29), Sargon (2 Kings 17:6), and Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:13; 'Eponym Canon,' p. 134), who, without cause, grievously "oppressed" them. Now they are suffering under a third captivity in Babylonia. What is to be the Divine action under these circumstances? Just as we found above, that the exclamation "awake" (‛ūrı̄), which the church addresses to the arm of Jehovah, grew out of the preceding great promises; so here there grows out of the same another "awake" (hith‛ōrerı̄), which the prophet addresses to Jerusalem in the name of his God, and the reason for which is given in the form of new promises. "Wake thyself up, wake thyself up, stand up, O Jerusalem, thou that hast drunk out of the hand of Jehovah the goblet of His fury: the goblet cup of reeling hast thou drunk, sipped out. There was none who guided her of all the children that she had brought forth; and none who took her by the hand of all the children that she had brought up. There were two things that happened to thee; who should console thee? Devastation, and ruin, and famine, and the sword: how should I comfort thee? Thy children were benighted, lay at the corners of all the streets like a snared antelope: as those who were full of the fury of Jehovah, the rebuke of thy God. Therefore hearken to this, O wretched and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord, Jehovah, and thy God that defendeth His people, Behold, I take out of thine hand the goblet of reeling, the goblet cup of my fury: thou shalt not continue to drink it any more. And I put it into the hand of thy tormentors; who said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over; and thou madest thy back like the ground, and like a public way for those who go over it." In Isaiah 51:17, Jerusalem is regarded as a woman lying on the ground in the sleep of faintness and stupefaction. She has been obliged to drink, for her punishment, the goblet filled with the fury of the wrath of God, the goblet which throws those who drink it into unconscious reeling; and this goblet, which is called qubba‛ath kōs (κύπελλον ποτηιρίου, a genitive construction, though appositional in sense), for the purpose of giving greater prominence to its swelling sides, she has not only had to drink, but to drain quite clean (cf., Psalm 75:9, and more especially Ezekiel 23:32-34). Observe the plaintive falling of the tone in shâthı̄th mâtsı̄th. In this state of unconscious stupefaction was Jerusalem lying, without any help on the part of her children; there was not one who came to guide the stupefied one, or took her by the hand to lift her up. The consciousness of the punishment that their sins had deserved, and the greatness of the sufferings that the punishment had brought, pressed so heavily upon all the members of the congregation, that not one of them showed the requisite cheerfulness and strength to rise up on her behalf, so as to make her fate at any rate tolerable to her, and ward off the worst calamities. What elegiac music we have here in the deep cadences: mikkol-bânı̄m yâlâdâh, mikkol-bânı̄m giddēlâh! So terrible was her calamity, that no one ventured to break the silence of the terror, or give expression to their sympathy. Even the prophet, humanly speaking, is obliged to exclaim, "How (mı̄, literally as who, as in Amos 7:2, Amos 7:5) should I comfort thee!" He knew of no equal or greater calamity, to which he could point Jerusalem, according to the principle which experience confirms, solamen miseris socios habuisse malorum. This is the real explanation, according to Lamentations 2:13, though we must not therefore take mı̄ as an accusative equals bemı̄, as Hitzig does. The whole of the group is in the tone of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. There were two kinds of things (i.e., two kinds of evils: mishpâchōth, as in Jeremiah 15:3) that had happened to her (קרא equals קרה, with which it is used interchangeably even in the Pentateuch) - namely, the devastation and ruin of their city and their land, famine and the sword to her children, their inhabitants.

In Isaiah 51:20 this is depicted with special reference to the famine. Her children were veiled (‛ullaph, deliquium pati, lit., obvelari), and lay in a state of unconsciousness like corpses at the corner of every street, where this horrible spectacle presented itself on every hand. They lay ketho' mikhmâr (rendered strangely and with very bad taste in the lxx, viz., like a half-cooked turnip; but given correctly by Jerome, sicut oryx, as in the lxx at Deuteronomy 14:5, illaqueatus), i.e., like a netted antelope (see at Job 39:9), i.e., one that has been taken in a hunter's net and lies there exhausted, after having almost strangled itself by ineffectual attempts to release itself. The appositional וגו המלאים, which refers to בניך, gives as a quippe qui the reason for all this suffering. It is the punishment decreed by God, which has pierced their very heart, and got them completely in its power. This clause assigning the reason, shows that the expression "thy children" (bânayikh) is not to be taken here in the same manner as in Lamentations 2:11-12; Lamentations 4:3-4, viz., as referring to children in distinction from adults; the subject is a general one, as in Isaiah 5:25. With lâkhē̄n (therefore, Isaiah 51:21) the address turns from the picture of sufferings to the promise, in the view of which the cry was uttered, in Isaiah 51:17, to awake and arise. Therefore, viz., because she had endured the full measure of God's wrath, she is to hear what His mercy, that has now begun to move, purposes to do. The connecting form shekhurath stands here, according to Ges. 116, 1, notwithstanding the (epexegetical) Vav which comes between. We may see from Isaiah 29:9 how thoroughly this "drunk, but not with wine," is in Isaiah's own style (from this distinction between a higher and lower sphere of related facts, compare Isaiah 47:14; Isaiah 48:10). The intensive plural 'ădōnı̄m is only applied to human lords in other places in the book of Isaiah; but in this passage, in which Jerusalem is described as a woman, it is used once of Jehovah. Yârı̄bh ‛ammō is an attributive clause, signifying "who conducts the cause of His people," i.e., their advocate or defender. He takes the goblet of reeling and wrath, which Jerusalem has emptied, for ever out of her hand, and forces it newly filled upon her tormentors. There is no ground whatever for reading מוניך (from ינה, to throw down, related to יון, whence comes יון, a precipitate or sediment) in the place of מוגי (pret. hi. of יגה, (laborare, dolere), that favourite word of the Lamentations of Jeremiah (Lamentations 1:5, Lamentations 1:12; Lamentations 3:32, cf., Isaiah 1:4), the tone of which we recognise here throughout, as Lowth, Ewald, and Umbreit propose after the Targum ליך מונן דהוו. The words attributed to the enemies, shechı̄ vena‛ăbhorâh (from shâchâh, the kal of which only occurs here), are to be understood figuratively, as in Psalm 129:3. Jerusalem has been obliged to let her children be degraded into the defenceless objects of despotic tyranny and caprice, both at home in their own conquered country, and abroad in exile. But the relation is reversed now. Jerusalem is delivered, after having been punished, and the instruments of her punishment are given up to the punishment which their pride deserved.

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