Isaiah 64:2
As when the melting fire burns, the fire causes the waters to boil, to make your name known to your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at your presence!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) As when the melting fire burneth . . .—Better, as when fire Kindleth brushwood, as when fire causeth the water to boil. The two-fold action of material fire is used, as elsewhere, as a symbol of the “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) of the wrath of Jehovah.

64:1-5 They desire that God would manifest himself to them and for them, so that all may see it. This is applicable to the second coming of Christ, when the Lord himself shall descend from heaven. They plead what God had used to do, and had declared his gracious purpose to do, for his people. They need not fear being disappointed of it, for it is sure; or disappointed in it, for it is sufficient. The happiness of his people is bound up in what God has designed for them, and is preparing for them, and preparing them for; what he has done or will do. Can we believe this, and then think any thing too great to expect from his truth, power, and love? It is spiritual and cannot be comprehended by human understanding. It is ever ready. See what communion there is between a gracious God and a gracious soul. We must make conscience of doing our duty in every thing the Lord our God requires. Thou meetest him; this speaks his freeness and forwardness in doing them good. Though God has been angry with us for our sins, and justly, yet his anger has soon ended; but in his favour is life, which goes on and continues, and on that we depend for our salvation.As when the melting fire burneth - Margin, 'The fire of meltings.' Lowth renders it, 'As when the fire kindleth the dry fuel.' So Noyes, 'As fire kindleth the dry stubble.' The Septuagint render it: Ὡς κηρὸς ἀπὸ προσώπου πυρὸς τήκεται Hōs kēros apo prosōpou puros tēketai - 'As wax is melted before the fire.' So the Syriac renders it. The Hebrew word rendered here in the margin 'meltings' (המסים hămâsı̂ym), properly means, according to Gesenius, brushwood, twigs. So Saddias renders it. And the true idea here is, that the presence of Yahweh would cause the mountains to melt, as a fire consumes light and dry brushwood or stubble. Dr. Jubb supposes that the meaning is, 'As the fire of things smelted burneth' - an idea which would furnish a striking comparison, but there is much doubt whether the Hebrew will bear that construction.

The comparison is a very vivid and sublime one, as it is in the view given above - that the presence of Yahweh would set on fire the mountains, and cause them to flow down as under the operation of an intense heat. I do not know that there is reason to suppose that the prophet had any reference to a volcanic eruption, or that he was acquainted with such a phenomenon - though Syria and Palestine abounded in volcanic appearances, and the country around the Dead Sea is evidently volcanic (see Lyell's Geology, i. 299); but the following description may furnish an illustration of what would be exhibited by the flowing down of the mountains at the presence of Yahweh, and may serve to show the force of the language which the prophet employs in these verses. It is a description of an eruption of Vesuvius in 1779, by Sir William Hamilton. 'Jets of liquid lava,' says he, 'mixed with stones and scoriae, were thrown up to the height of at least 10,000 feet, having the appearance of a column of fire.

The falling matter being nearly as vividly inflamed as that which was continually issuing forth from the crater, formed with it one complete body of fire, which could not be less than two miles and a half in breadth, and of the extraordinary height above mentioned, casting a heat to the distance of at least six miles around it.' Speaking of the lava which flowed from the mountain, he says, 'At the point where it issued from an arched chasm in the side of the mountain, the vivid torrent rushed with the velocity of a flood. It was in perfect fusion, unattended with any scoriae on its surface, or any gross material not in a state of complete solution. It flowed with the translucency of honey, in regular channels, cut finer than art can imitate, and glowing with all the splendor of the sun' (Lyell's Geology, i. 316). Perhaps there can be conceived no more sublime representation of what was in the mind of the prophet than such an overflowing volcano. It should be observed, however, that Gesenius supposes that the word which is rendered Isaiah 64:1-3, 'flow down' (נזלוּ nāzolû), is derived, not from נזל nāzal, to flow, to run as liquids do; but from זלל zâlal, to shake, to tremble, to quake as mountains do in an earthquake. But it seems to me that the connection rather demands the former signification, as the principal elements in the figure is fire - and the office of fire is not to cause to tremble, but to burn or melt. The effect here described as illustrative of the presence of God, was that produced by intense burning heat.

The fire causeth the waters to boil - Such an effect was anticipated at the presence of Yahweh. The idea is still that of an intense heat, that should cause all obstacles to be consumed before the presence of the Lord. To illustrate this, the prophet speaks of that which is known to be most intense, that which causes water to boil; and the prayer is, that Yahweh would descend in the manner of such intense and glowing fire, in order that a the foes of the people might be destroyed, and all the obstacles to the restoration of his people removed. The exact point of the comparison, as I conceive, is the intensity of the heat, as emblematic of the majesty of Yahweh, and of the certain destruction of his foes.

To make thy name known - By the exhibition of thy majesty and glory.

2. Oh, that Thy wrath would consume Thy foes as the fire. Rather, "as the fire burneth the dry brushwood" [Gesenius]. As when the melting fire burneth; come with such zeal for thy people, that the solid mountains may be no more before thy breath than metal that runs, or water that boils by the force of a vehement fire; and thus, for the most part, when God will take vengeance of his enemies, the Scripture expresseth him coming with fire.

Thy name known; thy power known, that thine enemies and persecutors of try church may know thy power, and that thy name may be dreaded among them; his name put for his power, Psalm 106:8.

The nations; not the Babylonians only, but the nations round about. As when the melting fire burneth,.... Or, "the fire of melting" (k); a strong vehement fire, as Kimchi, such as is used under a furnace for melting metals; though De Dieu thinks a slow gentle fire is intended, such as is sufficient to keep the liquor boiling; which he concludes from the use of the word in the Arabic language, which, according to an Arabic lexicographer (l) he quotes, so signifies; and to the same purpose Hottinger (m), by the help of the Arabic language, interprets the word of a small low noise, the hissing of a boiling pot; though, as Vitringa observes, could it be granted, which can not, that a slow fire raises great bubbles in water, such as when it boils; yet the fire, with which God consumes his enemies, in a figurative sense, is represented as most vehement and noisy. It seems much better, with R. Jonah, quoted by Kimchi, to understand it of "dry stubble", which makes a great blaze and noise, and causes water to boil and rise up in bubbles; and with this agree some other versions, which render it by "bavins" (n), dry sticks and branches of trees; which being kindled,

the fire causeth the waters to boil; as the fire, under the pot, causes the waters to boil in it; the church here prays that the wrath of God might break forth upon his and her enemies, like fire that melts metals, and boils water. The figures used seem to denote the fierceness and vehemency of it. The Targum is,

"as when thou sendedst thine anger as fire in the days of Elijah, the sea was melted, the fire licked up the water;''

as if the allusion was to the affair in 1 Kings 18:38, but rather the allusion is, as Kimchi and others think, to the fire that burnt on Mount Sinai, when the Lord descended on it, and the cloud which flowed with water, as the above writer supposes, and which both together caused the smoke:

to make thy name known to thine adversaries; his terrible name, in the destruction of them; his power and his glory:

that the nations may tremble at thy presence; as Sinai trembled when the Lord was on it; and as the antichristian states will when Christ appears, and the vials of his wrath will be poured out; and the Lord's people will be delivered, and the Jews particularly converted.

(k) "ignis liquefactionum", Calvin, Vatablus; "igne liquationum", Cocceius. (l) Eliduri in Lexico Arabico tradit "significare quemvis lenem et submissum strepitum", De Dieu. (m) "Quemadmodum accenso igne fit lenis submissusque strepitus, sibilus et stridor ferventis ollae, et ignis excitat bullas", Hottinger. Smegma Orientale, I. 1. c. 7. p. 146. (n) "Quemadmodum conflagrante igne cremia", Junius & Tremellius; "nam quum accendit ignis cremia", Piscator; "sicut ardente igne ex ramalibus", Grotius; "ut ignis cremia consumens strepero motu exsilit", Vitringa.

As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth {b} the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thy adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!

(b) Meaning, the rain, hail, fire, thunder and lightning.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. Render: As fire kindleth brushwood, as fire maketh water boil, &c.

to make thy name known to thine adversaries &c.]—the purpose of the Theophany. Cf. ch. Isaiah 59:18-19.Verse 2. - As when the melting fire burneth, etc.; rather, as when fire kindles brushwood, and makes water to boil. Connect the similes with the last clause of ver. 1. The mountains shall be as powerless to resist Jehovah, as brushwood or water to resist fire. To make thy Name known (comp. Isaiah 63:12). Such an "epiphany" as the Church prays for would make the Name of Jehovah known far and wide, exalting him high above all gods, and causing "the nations" - i.e. the whole heathen world - to "tremble at his presence" and refrain from injuring his people. The way is prepared for the petitions for redemption which follow, outwardly by the change in Isaiah 63:14, from a mere description to a direct address, and inwardly by the thought, that Israel is at the present time in such a condition, as to cause it to look back with longing eyes to the time of the Mosaic redemption. "Look from heaven and see, from the habitation of Thy holiness and majesty! Where is Thy zeal and Thy display of might? The pressure of Thy bowels and Thy compassions are restrained towards me." On the relation between הבּיט, to look up, to open the eyes, and ראה, to fix the eye upon a thing. It is very rarely that we meet with the words in the reverse order, והביט ראה (vid., Habakkuk 1:5; Lamentations 1:11). In the second clause of Isaiah 63:15, instead of misshâmayim (from heaven), we have "from the dwelling-place (mizzebhul) of Thy holiness and majesty." The all-holy and all-glorious One, who once revealed Himself so gloriously in the history of Israel, has now withdrawn into His own heaven, where He is only revealed to the spirits. The object of the looking and seeing, as apparent from what follows, is the present helpless condition of the people in their sufferings, to which there does not seem likely to be any end. There are no traces now of the kin'âh (zeal) with which Jehovah used to strive on behalf of His people, and against their oppressors (Isaiah 26:11), or of the former displays of His gebhūrâh (וּגבוּרתך, as it is correctly written in Ven. 1521, is a defective plural). In Isaiah 63:15 we have not a continued question ("the sounding of Thy bowels and Thy mercies, which are restrained towards me?"), as Hitzig and Knobel suppose. The words 'ēlai hith'appâqū have not the appearance of an attributive clause, either according to the new strong thought expressed, or according to the order of the words (with אלי written first). On strepitus viscerum, as the effect and sign of deep sympathy, see at Isaiah 16:11. רחמים and מעים, or rather מעים (from מעה, of the form רעה) both signify primarily σπλἀγχνα, strictly speaking the soft inward parts of the body; the latter from the root מע, to be pulpy or soft, the former from the root חר, to be slack, loose, or soft. המון, as the plural of the predicate shows, does not govern רחמיך also. It is presupposed that the love of Jehovah urges Him towards His people, to relieve their misery; but His compassion and sympathy apparently put constraint upon themselves (hith'appēq as in Isaiah 42:14, lit., se superare, from 'âphaq, root פק), to abstain from working on behalf of Israel.
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