|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
44:9-20 Image-making is described, to expose the folly of idolaters. Though a man had used part of a log for fuel, he fell down before an image made of the remainder, praying it to deliver him. Man greatly dishonours God, when he represents him after the image of man. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, causing absurd reasonings in matters of religion. Whether men seek happiness in worldly things, or run into unbelief, superstition, or any false system, they feed on ashes. A heart deceived by pride, love of sin, and departure from God, turns men aside from his holy truth and worship. While the affections are depraved, a man holds fast the lie as his best treasure. Are our hearts set upon the wealth of the world and its pleasures? They will certainly prove a lie. If we trust to outward professions and doings, as if those would save us, we deceive ourselves. Self-suspicion is the first step towards self-deliverance. He that would deliver his soul, must question his conscience, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
Verse 14. - Cedars... cypress... oak. The second of the trees mentioned is more probably the ilex than the cypress, which does not grow either in Palestine or in Babylonia. Idols would be made of cedar on account of its fragrance, of flex and oak on account of their hardness and durability. Cedar was used as a material for carved figures in Egypt (Birch, 'Contents of British Museum,' p. 21). Which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest. The meaning is obscure. Dr. Kay translates, "and he encourages himself in the trees of the forest," which conveys no very distinct idea; Delitzsch, "and he chooses for himself among the trees," etc., which is sufficiently clear, but scarcely obtainable from the Hebrew text; Knobel, "he makes himself secure among the trees" (by putting a mark on those which he intends to have), which imparts an idea certainly not contained in the original. He planteth an ash. It is uncertain, and it does not greatly matter, what tree is intended. The point is that, before trees can grow up, they have to be planted, and that, for them to grow when planted, God's gift of rain is necessary (see the comment on ver. 13).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak,.... To make gods of, trees both pleasant and durable, but all unfruitful:
which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest; taking a great deal of pains in seeking out such trees as were most fit for his use, and a great deal of care in the growth of them, that they might answer his end, as well as exerting his strength in cutting of them down:
he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it; a tree that soon grows up, and which he plants for the purpose to make a god of; and this being watered and nourished with rain, which God vouchsafes, though designed for an idolatrous use, grows, and is fit for what it was intended; and being so, he cuts it down, and, makes an image of it; which shows his folly and madness, that a tree of his own planting, which he has seen the growth of, and yet be so sottish as to imagine that a god may be may be made of it. The word for "rain" signifies a body in the Syriac (g) language, as Kimchi observes, and for which he produces Daniel 4:33, and so Aben Ezra says it signifies in the Arabic language (h); and the sense is, "the body" of the tree "grew up", and being grown up, was cut down, and used as follows.
(g) "corpus", Luke 3.22. 2Cor. x. 10. Castel. Lex. Polyglott. col. 627. So in the Chaldee language. (h) So, according to Schindler, signifies a body, Lex. Pentaglott. col. 347, 348.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. Description of the material out of which the idol is formed.
cypress—rather, from Hebrew root, "to be hard," the holm oak," an evergreen abundant in Palestine [Gesenius].
strengtheneth—literally, "and he getteth strength to himself in the trees of the forest;" that is, he layeth in a great store of timber [Lowth]. Or, "chooseth," as "madest strong for thyself," that is, hast chosen (Ps 80:15, 17) [Gesenius]. But English Version gives a good sense: "strengtheneth"; that is, rears to maturity; a meaning suitable also to the context of Ps 80:15, 17, where Israel is compared to a vine planted by Jehovah [Maurer].
rain doth nourish it—Though the man planted the tree, yet he could not make it grow. In preparing to make an idol, he has to depend on the true God for rain from heaven (Jer 14:22).
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