|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
9:8-21 Those are ripening apace for ruin, whose hearts are unhumbled under humbling providences. For that which God designs, in smiting us, is, to turn us to himself; and if this point be not gained by lesser judgments, greater may be expected. The leaders of the people misled them. We have reason to be afraid of those that speak well of us, when we do ill. Wickedness was universal, all were infected with it. They shall be in trouble, and see no way out; and when men's ways displease the Lord, he makes even their friends to be at war with them. God would take away those they thought to have help from. Their rulers were the head. Their false prophets were the tail and the rush, the most despicable. In these civil contests, men preyed on near relations who were as their own flesh. The people turn not to Him who smites them, therefore he continues to smite: for when God judges, he will overcome; and the proudest, stoutest sinner shall either bend or break.
Verse 18. - Wickedness burneth as the fire; i.e. the contagion of wickedness overspreads a whole nation in the same rapid way that fire spreads over a field of stubble or a forest. They shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke; rather, they - i.e., the forest thickets - shall be whirled upward with the uplifting of smoke. The burning thickets shall mount up with the volumes of smoke into the air, and hang there as a murky but lurid pall. The flames of wickedness give no light to a land, but lunge it in heavy, hopeless gloom.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For wickedness burneth as the fire,.... That is, the punishment of their sins, as the Targum interprets it; the wrath of God for sin, which is poured out like fire, and consumes as that does; unless wicked men are meant, who are consumed with the fire of divine vengeance; the sense is the same:
it shall devour the briers and thorns; sinners and ungodly, so the Targum paraphrases it; and Aben Ezra observes, they are the wicked; who are compared to briers and thorns, for their unfruitfulness in themselves, harmfulness to others, and for their weakness to stand against the fury of incensed Deity, see 2 Samuel 23:6,
and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest. Kimchi thinks there is a gradation in these words, that as fire first begins to burn the thorns, and smaller wood, and then the greater; so wickedness consumes first the little ones, who are the thorns, and after that it kindles in the thickets of the forest, who are the great ones; so the commonwealth of Israel is compared to a forest; and the thorns, briers, and thickets, may denote the common people and their governors, who all being guilty of wickedness, should not escape the vengeance of God:
and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke: or lift up themselves, or be lifted up; so Aben Ezra and Kimchi interpret the word; but Jarchi thinks it has the signification of "to be perplexed": and gives the sense of it thus; they are perplexed, and shut up with the strength of smoke that burns: others take it to be a word of the same meaning with and render it, "they shall pulverize", or "go into dust in the lifting up of smoke" (d); and denotes the dissolution of the commonwealth; but perhaps it may be better rendered, "though they shall walk proudly" (or behave haughtily), their "pride" shall be as "smoke", which soon vanishes away; since the word, which is only here used, in the Syriac language signifies to walk proudly, as a cock with two crests (e).
(d) "et epulverabitur erectione fumi", Cocceius; "adeo ut in minutissimum pulverem abeant elato fumo, vel elatione fumi", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (e) "Et superbient, (fastuose se gerent,) at superbia (vel quorum superbia) fumus, h. e. fumi instar, evanescit, interibit, quod etiam Armenis indigiat, isfud vacobulum `Abac', Syr. galus, gallinaceus, superbo gradu incedens et bicristatus", Castel. Lexicon Polyglott. Colossians 12.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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].
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