Isaiah 9:1
Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
IX.

(1) Nevertheless the dimness . . .—It is obvious, even in the English version, that the chapters are wrongly divided, and that what follows forms part of the same prophetic utterance as Isaiah 8. That version is, however, so obscure as to be almost unintelligible, and requires an entire remodelling:—Surely there is no gloom to her that was afflicted. In the former time he brought shame on the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter he bringeth honour on the way by the sea, beyond Jordan, the circuit of the Gentiles.

The prophet had seen in the closing verses of Isaiah 8 the extreme point of misery. That picture, as it were, dissolves, and another takes its place. She that was afflicted, the whole land of Israel, should have no more affliction. The future should be in striking contrast with the past. The lands of Zebulun and Naphtali, the region afterwards known as the Upper and Lower Galilee, had been laid waste and spoiled by Tiglath-pilneser (2Kings 15:29). That same region, described by the prophet in different terms (the former representing the tribal divisions, the latter the geographical) is hereafter to be the scene of a glory greater than Israel had ever known before.

The way of the sea . . .—The context shows that the “sea” is that which appears in Bible history under the names of the sea of Chinnereth (Numbers 34:11; Deuteronomy 3:17), the Sea of Galilee, the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1), Gennesaret (Mark 6:53). The high road thence to Damascus was known as Via Maris in the time of the Crusaders (Renan, quoted by Cheyne).

Beyond Jordan.—This, the Peræa of later geography, included the regions of Gilead and Bashan, the old kingdoms of Moab and Ammon, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. These also had suffered from the ravages of the Assyrian armies under Pul (1Chronicles 5:26).

Galilee of the nations.—The word Galilee, derived from the same root as Gilgal (Joshua 5:9), means strictly “a circle,” or “circuit.” It was applied to the border-lands of the Phœnician frontier of the northern kingdom, inhabited by a mixed population, and therefore known as “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15-16) what in mediaeval German would have been called the Heidenmark.

Isaiah 9:1. Nevertheless, &c. — In the Hebrew, this verse is joined to the preceding chapter, as it is also in Bishop Lowth’s translation; and if it be considered as connected therewith, and the connecting particle, כי, be translated for, (which is its usual meaning,) instead of nevertheless, the words may be understood to express an aggravation of the darkness, or misery, threatened in the two former verses, as the punishment of those who should reject the Messiah: thus, For the dimness — Or darkness; shall not be such as was in her vexation, &c. — That is, this shall not be so slight an affliction as that which befell these parts of the country by Pul, 2 Kings 15:19; nor as that which succeeded it, by Tiglath-pileser, 2 Kings 15:29; which was a heavier stroke than the former; but this shall be far heavier than either of them. Subsequent events, supposed to be here predicted, seem to confirm this interpretation, the calamities which, by the just judgment of God, befell the Jews for rejecting and crucifying the Messiah, being incomparably greater than those brought on the land by Zebulun and Naphtali by any, or all, of the Assyrian invasions. Our translation, however, and most commentators, consider this verse as containing a mitigation of the foregoing threatening, and that the sense of it is this: The calamity of this land and its inhabitants shall be great, yet not so great as that which was brought upon Zebulun and Naphtali by the king of Assyria, because then the Israelites were not only quite rooted out, and carried away into a dreadful captivity, out of which they were not to return; but their calamity was not alleviated by the coming of the Messiah and the gospel light; whereas, before and amidst this darkness, of which I have now spoken, shall a glorious light arise to cheer all who open their eyes to behold it. Thus interpreted, this verse is rather connected with the following than the foregoing verses, and is introductory to them, in which light Bishop Lowth considers it; although, as has been observed, following the Hebrew, he joins it to the preceding chapter. His translation of it, nearly the same with that of Dr. Waterland, is worthy of the reader’s attention, as it casts a new light on the words. It is as follows: “But there shall not hereafter be darkness in the land which was distressed: In the former time he debased the land of Zebulun, and the land, of Naphtali; but in the latter time he hath made it glorious: Even the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nation.” The reader must observe, that “Zebulun, Naphtali, and Manasseh, that is, the country of Galilee, all around the sea of Genesareth, were the parts that principally suffered in the Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-pileser; and they were the first that enjoyed the blessing of Christ’s preaching the gospel, and exhibiting his miraculous works among them.”9:1-7 The Syrians and Assyrians first ravaged the countries here mentioned, and that region was first favoured by the preaching of Christ. Those that want the gospel, walk in darkness, and in the utmost danger. But when the gospel comes to any place, to any soul, light comes. Let us earnestly pray that it may shine into our hearts, and make us wise unto salvation. The gospel brings joy with it. Those who would have joy, must expect to go through hard work, as the husbandman, before he has the joy of harvest; and hard conflict, as the soldier, before he divides the spoil. The Jews were delivered from the yoke of many oppressors; this was a shadow of the believer's deliverance from the yoke of Satan. The cleansing the souls of believers from the power and pollution of sin, would be by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as purifying fire. These great things for the church, shall be done by the Messiah, Emmanuel. The Child is born; it was certain; and the church, before Christ came in the flesh, benefitted by his undertaking. It is a prophecy of him and of his kingdom, which those that waited for the Consolation of Israel read with pleasure. This Child was born for the benefit of us men, of us sinners, of all believers, from the beginning to the end of the world. Justly is he called Wonderful, for he is both God and man. His love is the wonder of angels and glorified saints. He is the Counsellor, for he knew the counsels of God from eternity; and he gives counsel to men, in which he consults our welfare. He is the Wonderful Counsellor; none teaches like him. He is God, the mighty One. Such is the work of the Mediator, that no less power than that of the mighty God could bring it to pass. He is God, one with the Father. As the Prince of Peace, he reconciles us to God; he is the Giver of peace in the heart and conscience; and when his kingdom is fully established, men shall learn war no more. The government shall be upon him; he shall bear the burden of it. Glorious things are spoken of Christ's government. There is no end to the increase of its peace, for the happiness of its subjects shall last for ever. The exact agreement of this prophecy with the doctrine of the New Testament, shows that Jewish prophets and Christian teachers had the same view of the person and salvation of the Messiah. To what earthly king or kingdom can these words apply? Give then, O Lord, to thy people to know thee by every endearing name, and in every glorious character. Give increase of grace in every heart of thy redeemed upon earth.Nevertheless - Notwithstanding what is said in the previous chapter of the calamities that are coming upon Israel. Hengstenberg renders this whole verse: 'For darkness shall not be upon the land upon which there is distress; as the former time has dishonored the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; so shall the time come to honor it, the region on the border of the sea, by the side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.'

The dimness - The Hebrew word hero denotes obscurity, or darkness; and is used here, as the word darkness often is in the Scriptures, to denote calamity or affliction. The dimness, or calamity, here referred to, is that which is threatened, Isaiah 8:21-22.

Shall not be such - It shall not be unbroken darkness, and unalleviated calamity; but it shall be interrupted by the rising of the great light that shall shine on the dark land of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In her vexation - The word 'her' refers to the whole land of Palestine, to the afflictions that came upon the whole region. The word vexation, מוצק mûtsâq means oppression, calamity, or being "straitened, or pressed."

When at the first - In the former time; on a former occasion.

He lightly afflicted - The word used here, קלל qâlal, means properly, to be, or make light, or small; and in Hiphil, the form which occurs here, it often means to "esteem lightly, to despise, to hold in contempt;" 2 Samuel 19:43; Ezekiel 22:7. It probably has that sense here, as the design of the prophet is evidently to speak, not of a light affliction in the former time, but of a grievous, heavy calamity - a calamity which would be well denoted by the expression, 'he made them vile; he exposed them to contempt and derision.' The time to which reference is made here, was probably the invasion of the land by Tiglath-pileser; 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26. In that invasion, the parts of Zebulun and Naphtali were particularly afflicted. 'Tiglath-pileser took Ijon, and Gilead, and Galilee, and all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria;' 2 Kings 15:29. This region had also been invaded by Benhadad two hundred years before the time of Isaiah; 1 Kings 15:20, and there might have been a reference to these various invasions to which this northern part of the land of Palestine had been subjected.

The land of Zebulun - The region occupied by the tribe of Zebulun. This tribe was located between the sea of Tiberias, or the lake Gennesareth, and the Mediterranean. It extended entirely across from the one to the other, and as it was thus favored with a somewhat extended seacoast, the people were more given to commerce than the other tribes, and hence, mingled more with surrounding nations.

And the land of Naphtali - The region which was occupied by this tribe was directly north of Zebulun, and of the sea of Galilee, having that sea and the tribe of Zebulun on the south and southeast, Asher on the west, and a part of the tribe of Manasseh, on the east.

And afterward - That is, in subsequent times; meaning times that were to come after the prophecy here delivered. The previous part of the verse refers to the calamities that had come upon that region in former times. The expression here refers to what was seen by the prophet as yet to occur.

Did more grievously afflict - הכביד hı̂kebbı̂yd. This verb has very various significations. It properly means "to be heavy, to be grievous, to lie or fall heavy on anyone, to be dull, obstinate; also, to be honored, respected;" that is, of weight, or influence in society. It means, in Hiphil, the form which is used here, "to make heavy, or grievous;" 1 Kings 12:10; Isaiah 47:6; "to oppress," Nehemiah 5:15; and it also means to "cause to be honored, or distinguished, to favor. - Gesenius." The connection requires that it should have this sense here, and the passage means, that the land which he had made vile in former times, or had suffered to be despised, he had purposed to honor, or to render illustrious by the great light that should rise on it. So Lowth, Rosenmuller, and Gesenius, translate it; see a similar use of the word in Jeremiah 30:19; 2 Chronicles 25:19; 1 Samuel 2:30.

By the way of the sea - The sea of Galilee, or Gennesareth. All this region was in the vicinity of that sea. The word "way" here, דרך derek, means toward, or in the vicinity of. The extensive dark region lying in the vicinity of that sea, Both those tribes bordered on the sea of Tiberias, or had that as a part of their boundary.

Beyond Jordan - This expression - הירדן עבר ‛ēber hayareddēn - means in the vicinity of Jordan; the land by the side of the Jordan, or perhaps that large region through which the upper part of the Jordan passed. It does not mean strictly on the east of Jordan, but rather the northern portion of the land. It is such language as a man would use who was describing the upper and imperfectly known regions of the country - the dark, uncivilized region through which the upper part of the Jordan flowed, and the word עבר ‛ēber, rendered here "beyond," means "side" - by the side of the Jordan.

Galilee of the nations - This was sometimes called upper Galilee. It was called 'Galilee of the nations,' or of the Gentiles, because it was surrounded by them, and because the pagan were extensively intermingled with the Jews. In this region, Solomon had given to Hiram, king of Tyre, twenty cities; 1 Kings 9:2. Adjacent to this region were the countries of Phenicia, Tyre, and Sidon; and the people would naturally mingle much with them in commerce. The country abounded with hills and caverns, and, consequently, it was never possible completely to dislodge from the fastnesses the former inhabitants of the land. Strabo enumerates among the inhabitants of Galilee, Arabians and Phenicians. The inhabitants of this country are represented as having been bold and courageous, but as seditious, and prone to insolence and rebellion. If it be asked here, in what way this land had been made contemptible, or why it was regarded as an object of contempt? we may reply,

(1) The district in which these two tribes dwelt constituted the border-land toward the pagan nations.

continued...

CHAPTER 9

Isa 9:1-7. Continuation of the Prophecy in the Eighth Chapter.

1. Nevertheless, &c.—rather, "For darkness shall not (continually) be on it (that is, the land) on which there is (now) distress" [Hengstenberg and Maurer]. The "for" refers, not to the words immediately preceding, but to the consolations in Isa 8:9, 10, 17, 18. Do not despair, for, &c.

when at the first, &c.—rather, "as the former time has brought contempt on the land of Zebulun and Naphtali (namely, the deportation of their inhabitants under Tiglath-pileser, 2Ki 15:29, a little before the giving of this prophecy); so shall the after-coming time bring honor to the way of the sea (the district around the lake of Galilee), the land beyond (but Hengstenberg, "by the side of") Jordan (Perea, east of Jordan, belonging to Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh), the circle (but Hengstenberg, "Galilee") (that is, region) of the "Gentiles" [Maurer, Hengstenberg, &c.]. Galil in Hebrew is a "circle," "circuit," and from it came the name Galilee. North of Naphtali, inhabited by a mixed race of Jews and Gentiles of the bordering Phœnician race (Jud 1:30; 1Ki 9:11). Besides the recent deportation by Tiglath-pileser, it had been sorely smitten by Ben-hadad of Syria, two hundred years before (1Ki 15:20). It was after the Assyrian deportation colonized with heathens, by Esar-haddon (2Ki 17:24). Hence arose the contempt for it on the part of the southern Jews of purer blood (Joh 1:46; 7:52). The same region which was so darkened once, shall be among the first to receive Messiah's light (Mt 4:13, 15, 16). It was in despised Galilee that He first and most publicly exercised His ministry; from it were most of His apostles. Foretold in De 33:18, 19; Ac 2:7; Ps 68:27, 28, Jerusalem, the theocratic capital, might readily have known Messiah; to compensate less favored Galilee, He ministered mostly there; Galilee's very debasement made it feel its need of a Saviour, a feeling not known to the self-righteous Jews (Mt 9:13). It was appropriate, too, that He who was both "the Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of His people Israel," should minister chiefly on the border land of Israel, near the Gentiles.Joy in the midst of affliction, Isaiah 9:1-5. The birth, person, office, and kingdom of Christ, Isaiah 9:6,7. Judgments for their pride, Isaiah 9:8-12; for their impenitency and hypocrisy, Isaiah 9:13-21.

The dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation: the words thus rendered contain a mitigation of the foregoing threatening; and so the sense of the verse may be this, The calamity of this land and its inhabitants shall be great, yet not such as that which was brought upon the kingdom of the ten tribes by the king of Assyria, who at first indeed dealt more gently with them, but afterwards quite rooted them out, and carried them away into a dreadful captivity, from whence they were not to return, no, not when the Messiah came into the world; for after this darkness of which I have now spoken, there shall come a glorious light, as it follows in the next verse. The Dutch interpreters take it in the same sense, and render the words thus, But the land that was distressed shall not be utterly darkened. To the same purpose they may be thus rendered, according to the Hebrew, But darkness shall not be (i.e. shall not abide or continue; for to be is sometimes put for to abide or continue to be, as 1 Samuel 12:14 Proverbs 23:5 Matthew 17:4 Hebrews 8:4) unto her, (to wit, the land, which by the consent of interpreters is understood here, as it was Isaiah 8:21) to whom this distress is or shall be. She shall be distressed and darkened, as I said before, Isaiah 8:22, but not irrecoverably, nor for ever. Some understand the words to be an aggravation of the darkness or misery threatened Isaiah 8:22, rendering the words thus, for the dimness shall not be, &c. And so the sense is, This shall not be so slight an affliction as that which befell them by Pul, 2 Kings 15:19, nor as that which succeeded it by Tiglathpileser, who, at the desire of Ahaz, did about this time make another invasion into the land of Israel, 2 Kings 15:29, and was a heavier stroke than the former; but this shall be far heavier than either of them. But the former sense seems better to agree, both with the following verses, and with Matthew 4:14-16, where these words are expounded as a promise, and said to be fulfilled by Christ’s preaching the gospel in these parts. At the first; in the first invasion which the king of Assyria made upon Israel. He, to wit, God, who is oft understood in such cases, and who is here supposed to be the author or inflicter of this judgment. Or it is an impersonal speech, he afflicted for was afflicted, than which nothing is more common in the Hebrew language. Lightly afflicted; either,

1. By Pul; or rather,

2. By Tiglath-pileser, who at this time invaded and subdued these parts, as it is expressed, 2 Kings 15:29; the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali: these parts are particularly mentioned, because this storm fell most heavily upon them; but under them the other parts of the land are understood by a common figure called synecdoche. Did more grievously afflict her; either,

1. By Tiglath-pileser; or rather,

2. By Shalmaneser, who took Samaria, and carried Israel into captivity, 2 Kings 17:5,6; of which calamity, though yet to come, the prophet speaks as if it were past, as the manner of the prophet is. By the way of the sea; in that part of the land which bordereth upon the sea, to wit, the lake of Gennesaret, which is very commonly called a sea, as Matthew 4:18 John 21:1, &c., and upon which the portions of Zebulun and Naphtali bordered. Beyond Jordan; or, on this side Jordan; for this preposition is used both ways, and this land might be said to be either beyond or on this side Jordan, in divers respects. Galilee of the nations, or Galilee of the Gentiles, to wit, the Upper Galilee, so called because it bordered upon the Gentiles. But this last clause, and the two foregoing clauses, are otherwise rendered and interpreted by divers learned men, as a prophecy concerning the light of the gospel that should shine in those parts: As at the first time (to wit, in the former ages of the Israelitish church and commonwealth) he made the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali vile or contemptible; (as he might be said to have done, partly, by putting those people at so great a distance from his sanctuary; partly, by exposing them to some calamities which other tribes escaped; and partly, by denying them those honours and privileges which he afforded to other tribes, of which see John 7:52, Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet; and John 1:46, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? which was an eminent city of Galilee;) so in the latter or last time (to wit, in the days of the Messiah, or of the gospel, which are frequently so called in the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament) he made it (i.e. he will make it, for the prophet speaks of things to come as past, as he doth most commonly in this prophecy) glorious (to wit, by Christ’s first preaching the gospel in those parts) in or towards the way of the sea, (to wit, of Galilee or Gennesaret,) beyond or on this side Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles: which interpretation I thought fit to propose, as deserving further consideration.

Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation,.... The words may be rendered, "for there shall be no weariness to him that straitens" or "afflicts" them (f); so Jarchi, who interprets it of the king of Assyria; but it is better to understand it of Titus Vespasian, who would not be weary of, but indefatigable in carrying on the siege of Jerusalem, and in distressing the Jews in all parts: or thus, "for there shall be no fleeing from him that is oppressed in it" (g); either that is besieged in Jerusalem, or distressed in Judea; and so the words are a reason of the former distress, and a continuation and amplification of it; though many interpreters think they are to be understood by way of comfort, and as a mitigation of it, which is the sense of our version:

when at first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; either by Pul king of Assyria, in the reign of Menahem king of Israel, 2 Kings 15:19 or rather by Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, in the reign of Pekah king of Israel, since by him Galilee, and all the land of Naphtali, were carried captive, 2 Kings 15:29 which at the time of this prophecy was past, and was but a light affliction in comparison of what followed:

and afterwards did more grievously afflict her: by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, in the reign of Hoshea king of Israel, who took Samaria, and carried Israel or the ten tribes into captivity, from whence they returned not; and yet it is suggested, that the tribulation and distress that should come upon the Jews by the Romans should be greater than the heaviest of these; there should be no fleeing, no escape, no, not of any, as at those times mentioned, but wrath should come upon them to the uttermost, and particularly in the places following:

by the way of the sea; which some understand of the Mediterranean sea, and of that part of the land of Israel which lay next it; but it seems rather to design the sea of Tiberias or Galilee, as Jarchi rightly interprets it:

beyond Jordan; a part of the land of Israel so called, known by the name of Peraea; See Gill on Matthew 4:25,

in Galilee of the nations; which was inhabited not only by Jews, but by persons of other nations, and therefore so called; now these places suffered much in the wars between the Jews and the Romans, by skirmishes, sieges, robberies, plunders, &c. as appears from the history of Josephus. Some interpreters understand all this, as before observed, as an alleviation of those times of trouble, as if it would be less than in former times; but it is certain that it was to be, and was, greater than ever was known, Matthew 24:21 it is true, indeed, it may be considered as an alleviation of it, and as affording some comfort in a view of it, that in those very parts where there should be so much distress and misery, the Messiah, previous to it, would appear, and honour it with his presence, who is afterwards spoken of, and so, in connection with the following words, these may be rendered thus; as by De Dieu, "but obscurity shall not be brought to it" (the land) "to which distress is brought; as at the first time he caused reproach towards the land of Zebulun, and towards the land of Naphtali, so in the last" (time) "he will give glory by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, on the border of the nations": and if it be asked what that glory should be, the answer is, "the people that walked in darkness", &c. and so the sense may be, that whereas the inhabitants of Zebulun and Naphtali, and all Galilee, were lightly esteemed of, being mean and illiterate, not famous for any arts or sciences, and having no prophet among them, should, in the days of the Messiah, be highly honoured, and made glorious by his presence, ministry, and miracles among them (h). See Matthew 14:13, where it is quoted, and applied to Christ's being in those parts.

(f) "quia non defatigatio ei angustanti eos." Quidam in Gataker; so Jarchi. (g) "Et non poterit avolare de angustia sua", Hieron. (h) See my book of the Prophecies of the Messiah, &c. p. 148.

Nevertheless {a} the dimness shall not be such as was in her distress, {b} when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of {c} the nations.

(a) He comforts the Church again after these great threatenings promising to restore them to great glory in Messiah.

(b) With which Israel was punished, first by Tiglath-pilesar, which was a light scourge in respect to that which they suffered afterward by Shalmaneser, who carried the Israelites away captive.

(c) While the Jews and Gentiles dwelt together by reason of those twenty cites, which Solomon gave to Hiram.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Isaiah 9:1. Nevertheless … vexation] Lit. For (there is) no gloom to her that (is) in straitness. The sentence is an enigma. Duhm translates it as a question and regards it as the gloss of a reader who with difficulty had made up his mind that the “gloom” is metaphorical and justified his conclusion thus: “For is there not gloom to (a land) that is in straits?” It is a nice question whether the ancient scholiast or the modern commentator displays the greater subtlety here. If the words are retained in the text we must supply a different tense in the two members, as R.V. “But (for) there shall be no gloom to her that was in anguish.”

when at the first … more grievously afflict her] Begin a new sentence and render as R.V. In the former time he brought into contempt … but in the latter time hath he made it glorious, &c., or (since the words for “land” have the acc. termination), “brought contempt on the land … brought honour to it.” The subject is Jehovah.

the land of Zebulun … Naphtali] Lower and Upper Galilee.

the way of the sea] either “in the direction of the (Mediterranean) Sea,” or “the region along the West side of the Sea of Gennesareth.” In the time of the Crusades Via Maris was the name of the road leading from Acre to Damascus.

beyond Jordan] the land of Gilead (2 Kings 15:29).

in Galilee of the nations] (omit “in”) the circuit of the nations. Although the Hebrew word (Gâlîl) is the origin of the later “Galilee,” the district to which it was applied in the O.T. was only the northernmost corner of what was afterwards Upper Galilee (see 1 Kings 9:11; Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32; 2 Kings 15:29).

These remote provinces are singled out for special mention because they were the first to be depopulated by Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29), those parts of the land, therefore, on which the reproach of foreign dominion will have lain longest when the Deliverance comes. The prophecy acquired a new and surprising significance when the “good news of the Kingdom” began to be proclaimed by our Lord first in Galilee (Matthew 4:13 ff.). But the following verses (Isaiah 9:2-7) refer of course to the whole nation.Verses 1-7 - THE TROUBLES OF ISRAEL SHALL END THROUGH THE BIRTH OF A MARVELOUS CHILD. The section of the prophecy commencing with Isaiah 7:1 terminates in this glorious burst of glad and gracious promise. The gist of the whole section is: "Israel shall not suffer from Pekah and Rezin; her oppressors shall be Assyria and Egypt, more especially the former; Assyria shall overwhelm her, crush her, lay her low; she shall remain awhile in gloom and darkness; but at length the darkness shall be dispelled; a 'great light' shall shine forth, first in the north, then over all the land; 'the rod of the oppressor' shall be broken; a Child shall be born, who shall bear marvelous names, and shall rule over the full kingdom of David in justice and righteousness forever." God has spoken, and God will perform this. Verse 1. - Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when, etc. Our translators have misconceived the construction, and consequently missed the sense. The first two clauses, which they run together, are entirely separate and distinct. Translate, Nevertheless there shall be no (more) darkness to her who was in affliction. As at the former time he brought contempt upon the land of Zebulon, etc. Contempt was brought on the more northern part of the Holy Land, first when it was overrun and ravaged by the Syrians (1 Kings 15:20) under Ben-hadad, and more recently when it bore the brunt of the Assyrian attack (2 Kings 15:29) under Tiglath-Pileser. At the first... and afterward; rather, at the former time... in the latter time. The contrast is between two periods of Israel's history, the existing period and the Messianic. And afterward did more grievously afflict her. This is altogether wrong. Translate, So in the latter time he hath brought honor on the way of the sea. The perfect is a "prophetic perfect," and the reference is to the honor that would be done to the northern districts, "the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali," by the Messiah dwelling there (comp. Matthew 4:14-16). The way of the sea; i.e. the district about the sea of Tiberias, called "the sea of Kinnereth" (equivalent to "Gennesareth") in Numbers 34:11, and "the sea of Galilee" in John 6:1. Beyond Jordan; i.e. the tract east of the sea and of the upper Jordan, where the five thousand were fed, and where our Lord was transfigured. Galilee of the nations. The name "Galilee" seems to have been given to the outlying circuit, or zone, on the north, which was debatable ground between the Israelites and their neighbors (see 1 Kings 9:11; Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32). The word means "circuit," or "ring." Though claimed as theirs by the Israelites, it was largely peopled by "Gentiles." Whilst offering this prayer, and looking for its fulfilment, he waits upon Jehovah. "And I wait upon Jehovah, who hides His face before the house of Jacob, and hope for Him." A time of judgment had now commenced, which would still last a long time; but the word of God was the pledge of Israel's continuance in the midst of it, and of the renewal of Israel's glory afterwards. The prophet would therefore hope for the grace which was now hidden behind the wrath.
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