Isaiah 9
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
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 Ph´┐Żnician 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.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
2. the people—the whole nation, Judah and Israel.

shadow of death—the darkest misery of captivity.

Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
3. multiplied … nation—primarily, the rapid increase of Israelites after the return from Babylon; more fully and exhaustively the rapid spread of Christianity at first.

not increased the joy—By a slight change in the Hebrew, its (joy) is substituted by some for not, because "not increased the joy" seems opposite to what immediately follows, "the joy," &c. Hengstenberg, retains not thus: "Whose joy thou hadst not increased," (that is, hadst diminished). Others, "Hast thou not increased the joy?" The very difficulty of the reading, not, makes it less likely to be an interpolation. Horsley best explains it: The prophet sees in vision a shifting scene, comprehending at one glance the history of the Christian Church to remotest times—a land dark and thinly peopled—lit up by a sudden light—filled with new inhabitants—then struggling with difficulties, and again delivered by the utter and final overthrow of their enemies. The influx of Gentile converts (represented here by "Galilee of the Gentiles") soon was to be followed by the growth of corruption, and the final rise of Antichrist, who is to be destroyed, while God's people is delivered, as in the case of Gideon's victory over Midian, not by man's prowess, but by the special interposition of God.

before thee—a phrase taken from sacrificial feasts; the tithe of harvest was eaten before God (De 12:7; 14:26).

as men rejoice … divide … spoil—referring to the judgments on the enemies of the Lord and His people, which usually accompany revelations of His grace.

For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
4. The occasion of the "joy," the deliverance not only of Ahaz and Judah from the Assyrian tribute (2Ki 16:8), and of Israel's ten tribes from the oppressor (2Ki 15:19), but of the Jewish Christian Church from its last great enemy.

hast—the past time for the future, in prophetic vision; it expresses the certainty of the event.

yoke of his burden—the yoke with which he was burdened.

staff of … shoulder—the staff which strikes his shoulder [Maurer]; or the wood, like a yoke, on the neck of slaves, the badge of servitude [Rosenmuller].

day of Midian—(Jud 7:8-22). As Gideon with a handful of men conquered the hosts of Midian, so Messiah the "child" (Isa 9:6) shall prove to be the "Prince of peace," and the small Israel under Him shall overcome the mighty hosts of Antichrist (compare Mic 5:2-5), containing the same contrast, and alluding also to "the Assyrian," the then enemy of the Church, as here in Isaiah, the type of the last great enemy. For further analogies between Gideon's victory and the Gospel, compare 2Co 4:7, with Jud 7:22. As the "dividing of the spoil" (Isa 9:3) was followed by that which was "not joy," the making of the idolatrous ephod (Jud 8:24-27), so the gospel victory was soon followed by apostasy at the first, and shall be so again after the millennial overthrow of Antichrist (Re 20:3, 7-9), previous to Satan's last doom (Re 20:10).

For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
5. every battle, &c.—rather, "every greave of (the warrior who is) armed with greaves in the din of battle, and the martial garment (or cloak, called by the Latins sagum) rolled in blood, shall be for burning, (and) fuel for fire" [Maurer]. All warlike accoutrements shall be destroyed, as no longer required in the new era of peace (Isa 2:4; 11:6, 7; Ps 46:9; Eze 39:9; Mic 5:5, 10; Zec 9:9, 10). Compare Mal 4:1, as to the previous burning up of the wicked.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
6. For—the ground of these great expectations,

unto us—for the benefit of the Jews first, and then the Gentiles (compare "unto you," Lu 2:11).

son … given—(Ps 2:7). God's gratuitous gift, on which man had no claim (Joh 3:16; Ro 6:23).

government … upon … shoulder—The ensign of office used to be worn on the shoulder, in token of sustaining the government (Isa 22:22). Here the government on Messiah's shoulder is in marked antithesis to the "yoke and staff" of the oppressor on Israel's "shoulder" (Isa 9:4). He shall receive the kingdom of the earth from the Father, to vindicate it from the misrule of those to whom it was entrusted to hold it for and under the Most High, but who sought to hold it in defiance of His right; the Father asserts His right by the Son, the "Heir of all things," who will hold it for Him (Da 7:13, 14).

name … called—His essential characteristics shall be.

Wonderful—(See on [697]Isa 8:18; Jud 13:18, Margin; 1Ti 3:16).

Counsellor—(Ps 16:7; Ro 11:33, 34; 1Co 1:24; Col 2:3).

mighty God—(Isa 10:21; Ps 24:8; Tit 2:13) Horsley translates: "God the mighty man." "Unto us … God" is equivalent to "Immanuel" (Isa 7:14).

everlasting Father—This marks Him as "Wonderful," that He is "a child," yet the "everlasting Father" (Joh 10:30; 14:9). Earthly kings leave their people after a short reign; He will reign over and bless them for ever [Hengstenberg].

Prince of Peace—(See on [698]Isa 9:5; Ge 49:10; Shiloh, "The Tranquillizer"). Finally (Ho 2:18). Even already He is "our peace" (Lu 2:14; Eph 2:14).

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
7. Of … increase … no end—His princely rule shall perpetually increase and be unlimited (Da 2:44).

throne of David—(1Ki 8:25; Ps 2:6; 132:11; Jer 3:17, 18 Eze 34:23-26; 37:16, 22; Lu 1:32, 33; Ac 2:30).

judgment … justice—It is not a kingdom of mere might, and triumph of force over enemies, but of righteousness (Isa 42:21; Ps 45:6, 7), attainable only in and by Messiah.

zeal, &c.—including not only Christ's hidden spiritual victory over Satan at the first coming, but the open one accompanied with "judgments" on Antichrist and every enemy at the second coming (Isa 59:17; Ps 9:6-8).

The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.
Isa 9:8-10:4. Prophecy as to the Ten Tribes.

Delivered a little later than the previous one. The ninth and tenth chapters ought to have been so divided. The present division into chapters was made by Cardinal Hugo, in A.D. 1250; and into verses, by Robert Stephens, the famous printer of Paris, in 1551. After the Assyrian invasion of Syria, that of Ephraim shall follow (2Ki 16:9); Isa 9:8-11, 17-20, foretell the intestine discords in Israel after Hoshea had slain Pekah (A.D. 739), that is, just after the Assyrian invasions, when for seven years it was stripped of magistrates and torn into factions. There are four strophes, each setting forth Ephraim's crime and consequent punishment, and ending with the formula, "For all this His anger is not turned away," &c. (Isa 9:12, 17, 21, and Isa 10:4).

8. Heading of the prophecy; (Isa 9:8-12), the first strophe.

unto Jacob—against the ten tribes [Lowth].

lighted upon—fallen from heaven by divine revelation (Da 4:31).

And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,
9. know—to their cost: experimentally (Ho 9:7).

Samaria—the capital of Ephraim (compare as to phrase, Isa 1:1).

The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.
10. bricks—in the East generally sun-dried, and therefore soon dissolved by rain. Granting, say the Ephraimites to the prophet's threat, that our affairs are in a ruinous state, we will restore them to more than their former magnificence. Self-confident unwillingness to see the judgments of God (Isa 26:11).

hewn stones—(1Ki 5:17).

sycamores—growing abundantly on the low lands of Judea, and though useful for building on account of their antiseptic property (which induced the Egyptians to use them for the cases of their mummies), not very valuable. The cedar, on the other hand, was odorous, free from knots, durable, and precious (1Ki 10:27). "We will replace cottages with palaces."

Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;
11. adversaries of Rezin—the Assyrians, who shall first attack Damascus, shall next advance "against him" (Ephraim). This is the punishment of Ephraim's pride in making light (Isa 9:10) of the judgment already inflicted by God through Tiglath-pileser (2Ki 15:29). A second Assyrian invasion (see on [699]Isa 7:1) shall follow. The reading "princes" for "adversaries" in uncalled for.

join—rather, "arm"; cover with armor [Maurer].

his—Rezin's.

The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
12. Syrians—Though now allies of Ephraim, after Rezin's death they shall join the Assyrians against Ephraim. "Together," in Isa 9:11, refers to this. Conquering nations often enlist in their armies the subject races (Isa 22:6; compare 2Ki 16:9; Jer 35:11), [Aben Ezra, Gesenius]. Horsley less probably takes "Syrians before," as the Syrians to the east, that is, not Rezin's subjects, but the Assyrians: "Aram" being the common name of Syrians and Assyrians.

Philistines—of Palestine.

behind—from the west: in marking the points of the compass, Orientalists face the east, which is before them: the west is behind. The right hand is the south: the left, the north.

devour—as a ravenous beast (Isa 1:20; Jer 10:25; 30:16; Nu 14:9).

For all this, &c.—The burden of each strophe.

For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.
13-17. Second strophe.

turneth not—the design of God's chastisements; not fulfilled in their case; a new cause for punishment (Jer 2:20; 5:3).

Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.
14. head and tail—proverbial for the highest and lowest (De 28:13, 44).

branch and rush—another image for the same thought (Isa 19:15). The branch is elevated on the top of the tree: the rush is coarse and low.

The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.
15. ancient—the older.

honourable—the man of rank.

prophet … lies, … tail—There were many such in Samaria (1Ki 22:6, 22, 23; compare as to "tail," Re 9:19).

For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.
16. leaders, &c.—(See Isa 3:12, Margin, and see on [700]Isa 3:12.)
Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
17. no joy—the parallelism, "neither … mercy," shows that this means, He shall have no such delight in their youthful warriors, however much they be the nation's delight and reliance, as to save them from the enemy's sword (Isa 31:8; compare Jer 18:21).

fatherless, &c.—not even the usual objects of His pity (Ps 10:14, 18; 68:5; Jer 49:11; Ho 14:3) shall be spared.

hypocrite—rather, a libertine, polluted [Horsley].

folly—wickedness (Ps 14:1).

still—Notwithstanding all these judgments, more remain.

For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.
18-21. Third strophe.

burneth—maketh consumption, not only spreading rapidly, but also consuming like fire: sin is its own punishment.

briers … thorns—emblem of the wicked; especially those of low rank (Isa 27:4; 2Sa 23:6).

forest—from the humble shrubbery the flame spreads to the vast forest; it reaches the high, as well as the low.

mount up like … smoke—rather. "They (the thickets of the forest) shall lift themselves proudly aloft [the Hebrew is from a Syriac root, a cock, expressing stateliness of motion, from his strutting gait, Horsley], in (in passing into) volumes of ascending smoke" [Maurer].

Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother.
19. darkened—namely, with smoke (Isa 9:18). The Septuagint and Chaldee render it, "is burnt up," so Maurer, from an Arabic root meaning "suffocating heat."

no man … spare … brother—intestine discord snapping asunder the dearest ties of nature.

And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm:
20. hungry—not literally. Image from unappeasable hunger, to picture internal factions, reckless of the most tender ties (Isa 9:19), and insatiably spreading misery and death on every side (Jer 19:9).

eat—not literally, but destroy (Ps 27:2; Job 19:22).

flesh of … arm—those nearest akin: their former support (helper) (Isa 32:2) [Maurer].

Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
21. Manasseh, Ephraim—the two sons of Joseph. So closely united as to form between them but one tribe; but now about to be rent into factions, thirsting for each other's blood. Disunited in all things else, but united "together against their brother Judah" (2Ki 15:10, 30).
A Commentary, Critical, Practical, and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown [1882]

Bible Hub
Isaiah 8
Top of Page
Top of Page