|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:24-30 Let not any expect to live easily who live wickedly. Sin weakens the strength, the root of a people; it defaces the beauty, the blossoms of a people. When God's word is despised, and his law cast away, what can men expect but that God should utterly abandon them? When God comes forth in wrath, the hills tremble, fear seizes even great men. When God designs the ruin of a provoking people, he can find instruments to be employed in it, as he sent for the Chaldeans, and afterwards the Romans, to destroy the Jews. Those who would not hear the voice of God speaking by his prophets, shall hear the voice of their enemies roaring against them. Let the distressed look which way they will, all appears dismal. If God frowns upon us, how can any creature smile? Let us diligently seek the well-grounded assurance, that when all earthly helps and comforts shall fail, God himself will be the strength of our hearts, and our portion for ever.
Verse 26. - And he will lift up an ensign. Mr. Cheyne translates, "a signal," and would so render the Hebrew word in Isaiah 11:10, 12; Isaiah 13:2; Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 62:10. But "ensigns" or "standards" were in use both among the Egyptians (Rosellini, 'Monumenti Civili,' pl. 121.) and among the Assyrians ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 461) before the time of Isaiah, and are, therefore, likely to have been in use among the Hebrews. The standards, however, of this early period were not flags, as Jarchi supposes, but solid constructions of wood or metal, exhibiting some emblem or other. God lifts up his standard to draw the nations together, indicating thereby that they are to fight his battles. And will hiss. "Hissing" is said to have been practiced by bee-keepers to draw their bees out of the hives in the morning, and bring them home again from the fields at nightfall (Cyril, ad loc.). God will collect an army against Israel, as such persons collect their bees (comp. Isaiah 7:18). From the end of the earth; i.e. "to bring them from the end of the earth." The nations are, or at least many of them are, extremely distant, as Elamites from the Persian Gulf (Isaiah 22:6), and perhaps Medes from beyond Zagros. They shall come; literally, he cometh; showing that, though the nations are many, they are united under one head, which here is probably the Assyrian power. With speed swiftly (comp. Joel 3:4). The reference is not so much to the speed with which the Assyrians marched, as to the immediate response which they would make to God's call,
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far,.... Not to the Chaldeans or Babylonians, for they were not nations, but one nation, and were a people near; but to the Romans, who consisted of many nations, and were afar off, and extended their empire to the ends of the earth; these, by one providence or another, were stirred up to make an expedition into the land of Judea, and besiege Jerusalem: and this lifting up of an ensign is not, as sometimes, for the gathering and enlisting of soldiers, or to prepare them for the battle, or to give them the signal when to begin the fight; but as a direction to decamp and proceed on a journey, on some expedition:
and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth, or "to him" (i); the king, or general of them, wherever he is, even though at the end of the earth: and the phrase denotes the secret and powerful influence of divine Providence, in moving upon the hearts of the Romans, and their general, to enter upon such a design against the Jews; and which was as easily done as for one man to hiss or call to another; or as for a shepherd to whistle for his sheep; to which the allusion seems to be; the Lord having the hearts of all in his hands, and can turn them as he pleases, to do his will:
and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly; or "he shall come"; the king with his army; and so the Targum paraphrases it;
"and behold, a king with his army shall come swiftly, as light clouds;''
this shows the swift and sudden destruction that should come upon the Jews; and is an answer to their scoffs, Isaiah 5:19.
(i) "ei", Vatablus; Montanus; "illi", Cocceius; "ad se", Junius & Tremellius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
26. lift … ensign—to call together the hostile nations to execute His judgments on Judea (Isa 10:5-7; 45:1). But for mercy to it, in Isa 11:12; 18:3.
hiss—(Isa 7:18). Bees were drawn out of their hives by the sound of a flute, or hissing, or whistling (Zec 10:8). God will collect the nations round Judea like bees (De 1:44; Ps 118:12).
end of the earth—the widely distant subject races of which the Assyrian army was made up (Isa 22:6). The ulterior fulfilment took place in the siege under Roman Titus. Compare "end of the earth" (De 28:49, &c.). So the pronoun is singular in the Hebrew, for "them," "their," "whose" (him, his, &c.), Isa 5:26-29; referring to some particular nation and person [Horsley].
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