Isaiah 30
Pulpit Commentary
Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:
Verse 1. - Woe to the rebellious children (comp. Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 65:2). The word translated "rebellious" is used in Deuteronomy 21:18, 20 of the persistently disobedient son, who was to be brought before the elders and stoned to death. That take counsel; rather, that form plans, such as the plan now formed to call in the aid of Egypt. It must be borne in mind that, under the theocracy, there was an authorized mode of consulting God, and receiving an answer from him, in any political emergency. That cover with a covering. The exact metaphor employed is uncertain, Mr. Cheyne renders, "that weave a web;" Dr. Kay, "that pour out a molten image." The meaning, however, in any case is, "that carry out a design," the clause being a mere variant of the preceding one. That they may add sin to sin; i.e. "to add a fresh sin to all their former sins."
That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!
Verse 2. - That walk; or, are on their way (comp. Isaiah 31:1). Either the Jewish ambassadors have already started, or the anticipatory vision of the prophet sees them as if starting. In the history (2 Kings 18:13-37; Isaiah 36:1-22) it is not expressly said that Hezekiah made application to Egypt for aid; but the reproaches of Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18:21, 24) would be pointless if he had not done so. Have not asked at my mouth. As they ought to have done (see Numbers 27:21; Judges 1:1; Judges 20:18; 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Kings 22:7, etc.). To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh. It is very uncertain who is the "Pharaoh" here intended. The supreme power over Egypt was probably, at the time, in the hands of Tirkakah (2 Kings 19:9); but Lower Egypt seems to have been ruled by various princes, the chief of whom was Shabatok, and any one of these may have been regarded by Isaiah as a "Pharaoh." To trust in the shadow of Egypt. Trust in the "shadow of God" was an expression very familiar to the Jews (see Psalm 17:8; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 91:1; Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 32:2). To "trust in the shadow of Egypt" was to put Egypt in the place of God.
Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.
For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.
Verse 4. - His princes were at Zoan. "Zoan" is undoubtedly Tanis, which is now "San," a heap of ruins in the Delta, where some interesting remains of the shepherd-kings have been discovered. It was a favorite capital of the monarchs of the nineteenth dynasty, and seems to have been the scene of the struggle between Moses and the Pharaoh of the Exodus (Psalm 78:12, 43). It then declined, but is said to have been the birthplace of the first king of the twenty-first dynasty. In the Ethiopian period it rose once more to some importance, and was at one time the capital of a principality (see G. Smith's 'Asshur-bani-pal,' pp. 21, 26, 32). The "princes" here spoken of are probably Hezekiah's ambassadors. His ambassadors came to Hanes. "Hanes" has been generally identified with the modern Esnes, a village between Memphis and Thebes, which is thought to mark the site of Hera-cleopolis Magna. But it has been well remarked that the Jewish envoys would scarcely have proceeded so far. Mr. R.S. Peele suggests, instead of Esnes, Tahpenes, or Daphnae ('Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 1. p. 753); but that name is somewhat remote from Hanes. Perhaps it would be best to acknowledge that "Hanes" cannot at present be identified. It was probably not very far from Tanis.
They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.
Verse 5. - They were all ashamed; rather, all are ashamed. The reference is not to the ambassadors, who felt no shame in their embassy, and probably returned elated by the promises made them; but to the subsequent feelings of the Jewish nation, when it was discovered by sad experience that no reliance was to be placed on "the strength of Pharaoh." A people that could not profit them. Mr. Cheyne compares, very pertinently, an inscription of Sargon's, where he says of the people of Philistia, Judah, Edom, and Moab, that "they and their evil chiefs, to fight against me, unto Pharaoh, King of Egypt, a monarch who could not save them, their presents carried, and besought his alliance" (G. Smith, 'Eponym Canon,' p. 130, II. 35-39). Egypt was, in fact, quite unable to cope with Assyria, and knew it. A shame, and also a reproach. A matter of which they would themselves be "ashamed," and with which the Assyrians would "reproach" them (as they did, 2 Kings 18:21, 24).
The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.
Verse 6. - Burden of the beasts of the south. Delitzsch thinks that the Egyptians are intended by the "beasts of the south" - the expression pointing primarily to the hippopotamus, which was an apt emblem of the slow-moving Egyptians. But most commentators regard the "beasts" of this clause as equivalent to the "young asses and camels" mentioned towards the end of the verse. (On the sense of the word "burden," see the introductory paragraph to Isaiah 13.) Into the lane of trouble and anguish; rather, through a laud. It is not Egypt that is spoken of, but the desert between Judaea and Egypt. The reminiscences of this desert were such that the Israelites always exaggerated its terrors and dangers (see Deuteronomy 8:15; Jeremiah 2:6). From whence come the young and old lion; rather, the lioness and the lion (see 'Speaker's Commentary' on Genesis 49:9; vol. 1. p. 227). Lions can never have been numerous in the tract in question; but they may have haunted portions of it, when it was better watered than at present. The viper and fiery flying serpent. Snakes of various kinds have always been abundant in the desert between Judaea and Egypt (Numbers 21:6; Strab., 16. p. 759; Schubert,' Travels,' sol. it. p. 406; Burckhardt, 'Travels,' p. 499, etc.). Seine of them were believed anciently to have wings (Herod., 2:75; 3:107); but the fact is doubted. Isaiah is not concerned with natural history, but with definitely marking out the locality through which the ambassadors would march. For this purpose it was best to describe it in terms drawn from the popular belief. Their riches... their treasures. Ambassadors who came to request military aid, as a matter of course carried rich presents with them. Young asses... camels. The ordinary beasts of burden employed in the passage of the desert (Genesis 37:25; Genesis 42:26; Herod., 3:9, etc.).
For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
Verse 7. - Therefore have I cried concerning this. Their strength is to sit still. No modern critic accepts this interpretation. Most translate, "Wherefore I name it" (i.e. Egypt) "Rahab, that sits still;" or "Arrogance, that 'sits still." Rahab, "pride" or 'arrogance," would seem to have been an old name for Egypt (Job 26:12; Psalm 87:4; Psalm 89:10; Isaiah 51:9), not one given at this time by Isaiah. What he means to say is, "Proud as thou art, thou doest nothing to maintain thy pride, but art content with sitting still." This he "cries" or "proclaims" concerning Egypt, as the most important thing for other nations to know about her.
Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
Verses 8-17. - A RENEWAL OF THREATENING. The denunciation of the Egyptian alliance had been made viva voce, in the courts of the temple or in some other place of public resort. As he ended, Isaiah received a Divine intimation that the prophecy was to be put on record, doubly, upon a tablet and in a book. At the same time, the "rebelliousness" of the people was further pointed out, and fresh threats (vers. 13, 14, and 17) were uttered against them. Verse 8. - Write it before them in a tablet; i.e." write the prophecy before them" (equivalent to "to be set up before them") "on a tablet," in the briefest possible form (comp. Isaiah 8:1). And note it in a book; i.e. "and also make a full notation of it in a book," or parchment roll. The "tablet" was to be for the admonition of the living generation of men; the "book" was for future generations, to be a record of God's omniscience and faithfulness "forever and ever." That it may be for the time to come; rather, for an after-day - not for the immediate present only. For ever and ever. Modern critics observe that the phrase, la'ad 'ad 'olam, never occurs elsewhere, and suggest a change of the pointing, which would give the sense of "for a testimony forever." Whether we accept the change or not, the meaning undoubtedly is that consigning the prophecy to a "book" would make an appeal to it possible in perpetuum. The perpetuity of the written Word is assumed as certain.
That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
Verse 9. - That this is a rebellious people; rather, for this is a rebellious people. The words to be written were those of the preceding prophecy. The reason for their being written is now given (comp. Deuteronomy 31:26, 27). Lying children (comp. Isaiah 59:13). They professed devotion to God; but their acts contradicted their words.
Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
Verse 10. - Which say, etc. Not, of course, directly, in so many words. But indirectly they let it be understood that this was what they wished. Compare the advice given to Micaiah by Ahab's messenger, who, no doubt, correctly interpreted the wishes of the monarch and his nobles (1 Kings 22:13). Seers... prophets. Not two classes of persons, but two names for the same class. The" parallelism" of Hebrew poetry leads to the constant employment of synonymous clauses. Right things; i.e. the truth in all its plainness. Smooth things; i.e. soft, pleasant announcements. Deceits; or, illusions (comp. Jeremiah 9:5, "They will deceive" or "mock" - where we have the same root).
Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
Verse 11. - Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. "The Holy One of Israel" was one of Isaiah's most frequent names for the Almighty. He used it especially when rebuking Israel's unholiness (Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 5:24, etc.). The irreligious Jews were weary of this constant iteration, and wished to hear no more concerning this "Holy One," whose very holiness was a reproach to them.
Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
Verse 12. - Because ye despise this word; rather, because ye reject this word (see 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 15:23, 26; 2 Kings 17:15, etc.). The "word" intended is probably the prophecy against trusting in Egypt (vers. 1-7). And trust in oppression; or, extortion. Oppressive measures employed to obtain the rich gifts which had to be sent into Egypt (ver. 6) are probably intended (setup. 2 Kings 15:20). Gratz and Cheyne change the reading from 'oshek to 'ikkesh ("perverseness"); but without any necessity. And perverseness; literally, crookedness; i.e. "tortuous policy" (Kay). And stay thereon; rather, lean or stay yourselves thereon.
Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
Verse 13. - This iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall. Your sin in rebelling against God, rejecting the warnings of his prophets, and trusting in your own devices shall bring you into the condition of a wall in which there is a "breach," or rather, a "bulge," which therefore totters to its fall, and is liable to dissolve in ruins at any moment. Swelling out in a high wall. The higher the wail, the greater the danger, and the more complete the destruction.
And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.
Verse 14. - And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces. Isaiah is fond of mixed metaphors, and of superseding one metaphor by another. From comparing Judah's fall and ruin to the shattering of a lofty wall, he suddenly turns to a comparison of it with the breaking to pieces of an earthen pitcher. Judah shall be so broken as when the pitcher is crushed into minute fragments, so that there is no piece large enough to convey a coal from one fire for the lighting of another, or to be of even the least use for drawing water from a well. A complete dissolution of the political fabric is foreshadowed, such as did not actually take effect till the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.
For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
Verse 15. - For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel. As the irreligious party wished to hear no more of "the Holy One of Israel" (ver. 11), Isaiah takes care to keep him constantly before their minds (comp. Isaiah 31:1). In returning and rest shall ye be saved; rather, should ye be saved, or might ye be saved. The conditions are put forward, not as now capable of being realized, but as those which might have been realized at an earlier date. The "returning" spoken of is an abandonment of the course hitherto pursued, which was reckless provocation of Assyria and trust in Egypt. The "rest" is staying upon God - renunciation of trust on any arm of flesh, and simple reliance on the Divine aid, as sure to be sufficient when the need came. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength; rather, should be. The clause is a mere iteration in other words of the preceding one. Ye would not. They had practically rejected the policy of quiescence and patient waiting upon God, when they sent the embassy into Egypt.
But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
Verse 16. - Ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; rather, we will fly upon horses. The nobles had perhaps a manly eagerness to mount the Egyptian war-horses, and rush upon the enemy at full speed, in the hope of discomfiting them. Isaiah warns them that they will not really fig on the enemy, but flee before him. We will ride upon the swift. "The swift" (kal) seems to be a mere variant for "horse," the parallelism being, as so frequently, "synonymous." Therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. However swift the horses of the Judaeans, their enemies would be as well mounted and would pursue and overtake them.
One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.
Verse 17. - One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one. A hyperbole common in Scripture (Deuteronomy 32:30; Joshua 23:10; Leviticus 26:8), and not confined to the sacred writers. Piankhi the Ethiopian boasts, in his great inscription, that, with Ammon's help, "many should turn their backs upon a few, and one should rout a thousand" ('Records of the Past,' vol. it. p. 84). At the rebuke of five. The "rebuke" of five (i.e. their war-shout) would put to flight the whole army. As a beacon; rather, as a flag-staff - stripped and bare (comp. Isaiah 33:23; Ezekiel 27:5). A tree stripped of its branches and left standing as a landmark seems to be intended. As an ensign. A military standard, such as was in common use among the Assyrians and Egyptians, as among the Greeks and Romans (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 57; Rawlinson, 'Hist. of Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 463).
And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.
Verses 18-26. - A RENEWAL OF PROMISE. The denunciations of the preceding passage (vers. 9-17) had been so terrible that, without some counterpoise of promise, they must have produced a general despair. This was not the Divine purpose. Judah's probation still continued. Therefore it was necessary to let it be seen that the Divine long-suffering was not yet exhausted - there were still conditions under which God would be gracious to his people. The conditions were "crying to the Lord" (ver. 19), and entire abolition of idolatry (ver. 22). Verse 18. - And therefore. "Because your sins require this chastisement" (Kay); "Because of the extremity of your need" (Cheyne). It is, perhaps, best to own that the motives of the Divine action are very commonly obscure; and, if seen clearly by the prophets, are certainly not clearly set forth, being (it may be) inscrutable. While the motive, however, is obscure, the promise is plain and unmistakable, The Lord will wait, that he may be gracious unto you. God is not about at present to "make a full end;" he is bent on "waiting" - his intent is "to be gracious." He will be exalted, that he may have mercy. He will find some means of vindicating his honor and exalting himself, short of your destruction, in order that it may be open to him to give you a further chance of repentance, whereby you would obtain mercy. For the Lord is a God of judgment. God is essentially just; sin must receive punishment; but the punishment may be short of destruction. Justice does not exclude mercy. If men bear their punishment with patience, and wait for God, a brighter day will dawn on them in course of time.
For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
Verse 19. - For the people shall dwell in Zion; rather, a people shall continue. Jerusalem shall not now be made desolate, or deprived of its inhabitants. Whatever the number of captives taken, "a people shall remain." Thou shalt weep no more. The reasons for weeping shall be removed. He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry. For God to be gracious to them, they must first "cry" to him - make an earnest, hearty appeal to him for mercy. Their "cry" will be answered as soon as heard, is as soon as uttered.
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
Verse 20. - And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity (so Mr. Cheyne). But most modern critics (Kay, Delitzsch, Vance Smith, etc.) regard the words as a promise of support through the siege, and omit the interpolated "though." Translate, And the Lord will give yon bread of adversity, and water of affliction; i.e. scant rations, but sufficient; and thy teachers shall not, etc. Be removed into a corner; i.e. "have to hide themselves from persecution." A persecution of Jehovah's prophets had commenced in Judah during the reign of Joash (2 Chronicles 24:19-22), and had probably continued with more or less severity ever since.
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
Verse 21. - Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee. Kay says, "The teacher will go before his flock, marking out the way before them." But in that case, the flock would hear the word before them. Delitzsch explains better, "They (the teachers), as the shepherds of the flock, would follow the people with friendly words of admonition." Even in the East, shepherds sometimes follow their flocks (see Genesis 32:17). When ye turn, i.e. when ye are about to turn.
Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.
Verse 22. - Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver. Idolatry, greatly encouraged by Ahaz, had been strictly forbidden by Hezekiah at the beginning of his reign (2 Kings 18:4); but the present passage, among others, shows how impossible it was for a king, with the best intentions, to effect the extirpation of idolatry, if his subjects were attached to it. Evidently the Jews had, in many cases, secretly maintained their idols and their idolatrous practices, despite the efforts of Hezekiah. But now, in their repentance, they would "defile" (i.e. destroy) both the outer "covering" of precious rectal, and the inner core of wood or stone, or base metallic substance. The ornament of thy molten images of gold; rather, the coating or overlaying. It was usual to overlay with gold or silver molten images of bronze or other inferior metal. Cast them away; literally, scatter; i.e. either grind them to powder (2 Kings 23:6), or at any rate break them to bits, and then disperse the fragments far and wide.
Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.
Verse 23. - Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; rather, then shall he give rain for thy seed, wherewith thou sowest the ground. God, having forgiven his people, will once more renew the blessings of his ordinary providence, giving them "rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). Bread of the increase of the earth; rather, bread, the produce of the ground; i.e. ordinary bread, not "bread from heaven," like the manna in the wilderness. Fat and plenteous; literally, rich and fat. Thy cattle. To complete the general prosperity, there should be plentiful pasture for the flocks and herds.
The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.
Verse 24. - The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground; rather, theft till or cultivate the ground. The Hebrew word is generic, and does not apply to "eating" (i.e. ploughing) only. Shall eat clean provender. Delitzsch says that b'lil khamitz is "a mash, composed of oats, barley, and vetches, made more savory with salt and sour vegetables." Mr. Cheyne translates, "Shall eat mixed provender with salt." The general idea is clearly that they shall have for their ordinary food that superior kind of provender which, according to existing practices, was reserved for rare occasions. Winnowed with the shovel. Anciently, winnowing was chiefly effected by tossing the grain into the air with shovels in a draughty place (see Wilkinson,' Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 4. pp. 86, 89, 90). The fan was scarcely in use so early as Isaiah's time. He means by mizreh probably a second instrument for tossing the grain Delitzsch translates, "winnowing-fork."
And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
Verse 25. - Rivers and streams of water; rather, rivulets, courses of water. Channels, along which water was conveyed for the purpose of irrigation, are intended (comp. Ezekiel 47:1-12; Joel 3:18). No doubt there is a secondary allegorical meaning running through the whole description of Judah's prosperity (vers. 23-26). In this allegorical intention the waters stand for the streams of God's grace. In the day of the great slaughter. Equivalent to "the day of vengeance" (Isaiah 34:8) the day when God shall tread down his enemies. The prophet passes from the immediate effect of Judah's repentance to a broader view of what shall happen when God's kingdom is established upon the earth. When the towers fall; i.e. when there shall be a general "pulling down of strong holds," and a "casting down of every high thing that exalts itself against God" (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5).
Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.
Verse 26. - The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun. "The promise now rises higher and higher, and passes from earth to heaven" (Delitzsch). All nature will become more glorious in the "last times." Moonlight will be as sunlight, and sunlight will be seven times brighter than it is now. Again, there may be an under allegorical sense. The light of truth will shine with greater brilliancy, so that all inch will be enlightened by it. "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). As the light of seven days; i.e. as though the light of seven days were concentrated into one. In the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach. At that period in the world's history when God forgives the iniquities of his people, and condescends to reign over them as their actual King, either in this present world or in "anew heaven and anew earth" (Revelation 21:1; comp. Isaiah 66:22), wherein shall "dwell righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). And healeth the stroke of their wound; rather, the wound of his stroke; i.e. the wound caused by the stroke wherewith he has smitten them.
Behold, the name of the LORD cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire:
Verses 27-33. - A PROPHECY OF ASSYRIA'S DESTRUCTION. Mr. Chcyne regards this passage as "a symbolic description of the judgment introduced by a theophany." But is it not rather a poetical description of God's judgment on Assyria, which may be, probably is, a type of his final judgment upon an iniquitous world? The mention of Assyria in ver. 31 seems to be decisive in favor of the prophecy being (primarily) of special application to the circumstances of the time. Verse 27. - The Name of the Lord cometh from far. "The Name of Jehovah" is scarcely distinguishable from Jehovah himself. Jehovah, who has long hid himself, and seemed to keep himself remote from worldly affairs, now is about to manifest his glory, and interpose in the doings of men in a wonderful way. Burning with his anger; rather, his anger burneth (comp. Isaiah 42:25). And the burden thereof is heavy; "anti heavy is its grievousness." His tongue as a devouring fire (comp. Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 9:3; Isaiah 9:19; Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 33:14).
And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.
Verse 28. - His breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck. When the sacred writers are oppressed by the tremendous character of the revelations made to them, their metaphors are often labored and incongruous. Here, the mouth, in which there is a tongue of fire, sends forth a rush of breath, which is compared to an "overflowing stream, which reaches to the middle of the neck, "and sweeps those who try to cross it away (comp. Ezekiel 47:5) To sift the nations with the sieve of vanity. More incongruity, to be excused by the writer's theme being such as to transcend all language and all imagery. One of the Divine purposes, in all violent crashes and revolutions, is "to sift nations" - to separate in each nation the good from the bad, the precious from the vile; and this is done with "the sieve of vanity," i.e. the sieve which allows the good corn to pass through, separating from it, and keeping back, all that is vile and refuse (comp. Amos 9:9). There shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err. Another entire change in the metaphor. The result of God's interference shall be "to put a bridle in the jaws of the peoples," whereby the hand of the Almighty will guide them to their destruction.
Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel.
Verse 29. - Ye shall have a song; literally, to you will [then] be a song. While the nations weep and lament, and are burnt up by God's anger, and swept away by his "overflowing flood," and guided to their destruction by his bridle in their jaws, Israel shall rejoice with singing. As in the night when a holy solemnity is kept. Perhaps a special reference is intended to the Pass-over-feast, which commenced with an even-tag or night celebration (Exodus 12:6, 8, 42; Matthew 26:30). Or perhaps "Isaiah is not referring to one feast more than another" (Cheyne), night-rituals belonging to all toasts, since the day commenced with the sunset. The Passover-song consisted of Psalm 113. - 118. And as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord. Joyful processions from the country districts to Jerusalem are alluded to. These were commonly headed by a piper or a band of pipers (Vitringa). They took place several times in the year - at each of the three great feasts, and irregularly when any district sent up its firstfruits to the temple treasury (Nehemiah 10:35-37). To the Mighty One of Israel; literally, to the Rock of Israel; i.e. to Jehovah (comp. Isaiah 17:10; and see also Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31; Psalm 18:2, 31, 46, etc.). The idea embodied in the metaphor is rather that of an unfailing refuge than of mere might and power.
And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.
Verse 30. - The Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard; literally, the majesty of his voice, Mr. Cheyne renders, "the peal of his voice." Delitzsch understands fearful thundering, like that at Sinai (Exodus 19:16; Exodus 20:18), to be intended (comp. Psalm 29:3-9). The lighting down of his arm; i.e. the blow causing the destruction, of ver. 31, of whatever kind that destruction might be - blasting by lightning, plague, simoom, death by the visitation of God, as men slept, or any other sudden, sweeping catastrophe. With the indignation of his anger; rather, in fury of anger. With the flame of a devouring fire; rather, with a flame of devouring-fire. All the elements of storm are accumulated by the prophet, to express the terrible character of the coming judgment-lightning, and scattering (of crops?), tempestuous wind, and hail-stones.
For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.
Verse 31. - For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down; rather, for at the voice of the Lord shall Assyria be dismayed (compare the first clause of ver. 30). Which smote with a rod; rather, with the rod will he (i.e. Jehovah) smite.
And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the LORD shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.
Verse 32. - In every place where the grounded staff shall pass, etc.; rather, and it shall come to pass that every stroke (literally, passage) of the destined rod which Jehovah causes to rest upon him shall be with an accompaniment of drums and citherns. Each blow dealt to Assyria shall rejoice her enemies, and cause them to break out into songs of praise, accompanied by the music of various instruments (comp. ver. 29; and see also Exodus 15:1-21). In battles of shaking; or, battles of swinging - "those in which Jehovah swings his rod, and deals (repeated) blows to his enemies" (Cheyne). Will he fight with it; rather, will he fight against her; i.e. against Assyria.
For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.
Verse 33. - For Tophet is ordained of old; rather, for a Tophet has been long since prepared. A "Tophet" is a place of burning, probably derived from the Aryan root tap or taph, found in Greek τάφος τέφρα, Latin tep-idus, Sanskrit tap, Persian taphtan. The name was specially attached to a particular spot in the Valley of Hinnom, where sacrifices were offered to Moloch (2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:6, 11, etc.); but Isaiah seems to use it generically, as if there were many Tophets. For the king it is prepared; literally, it also is prepared for the king - in the Hebrew "for the moloch," which is the same word as "Moloch," who was looked upon by his worshippers as "the king" ςκατς ἐξοχήν. Isaiah means to say, "As the Tophet of the Vale of Hinnom is prepared for a king (Moloch), so this new Tophet is prepared for another king (the King of Assyria)." He hath made it deep and large - a vast burning-place for a vast multitude (2 Kings 19:35), with the fire and the wood ready, only awaiting the breath of Jehovah to kindle it. As the bodies of great malefactors were burnt (Joshua 7:25), and not buried, so the prophet consigns to a great burning the hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian corpses, of which it would soon be necessary to dispose in some way.

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