Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.Isaiah 24:1. Behold, &c. — According to Vitringa, the third book of Isaiah’s prophecies begins with this chapter, and extends to the thirty-sixth, being divided into three discourses; the first comprehending four chapters, the second six, and the third two. The general subject of the book is the penal judgments denounced by God upon the disobedient Jews, and the enemies of the church, with the most ample promises to the true church. This first discourse, contained in this and the three following chapters, Bishop Lowth thinks, was delivered before the destruction of Moab by Shalmaneser, (see Isaiah 25:10,) and consequently before the destruction of Samaria, and probably in the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign. The Lord maketh the earth empty — The word הארצ, here translated the earth, may, with equal propriety, be rendered the land, as indeed it is in Isaiah 24:3; Isaiah 24:13 of this chapter, and very frequently elsewhere. The land of Canaan seems to be here meant, including both Israel and Judah, which was made empty when the inhabitants of it were carried into captivity, which they were, first by the Assyrians, and then by the Chaldeans. And it was made still more empty and desolate in the last and great destruction of its cities and people, particularly of Jerusalem and its inhabitants by the Romans; of which see on Deuteronomy 28:62. To this destruction especially the prophet is thought to refer in many parts of this chapter.
And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.Isaiah 24:2-3. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest, &c. — The calamity shall be universal, without any respect or distinction of persons or ranks of men; the priests themselves, having been partakers of the people’s sins, shall also partake with them of their plagues. As with the buyer, so with the seller — The purchaser of lands shall have no more left than he that hath sold his patrimony; but all persons shall be made equal in beggary and slavery. The land shall be utterly emptied and utterly spoiled — Shall be deprived both of its riches and inhabitants. “As the public calamities coming upon the land were to be repeated, at various times and in various manners,” the sacred writer is thought by some interpreters to have “accommodated his discourse to these calamities, and divided it into various articles and gradations.” See Vitringa.
The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.
The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.Isaiah 24:4. The earth, the land, mourneth and fadeth away — Hebrew, אבלה נבלה, abelah nabelah, lamenteth, falleth. The world languisheth, &c. — “The world,” says Bishop Lowth, “is the same with the land; that is, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah; orbis Iraeliticus,” the Israelitish world. Heathen authors frequently speak of particular provinces and countries under the name of orbis, orbis habitabilis, and orbis terrarum, the world, the habitable world, the whole world, &c. And the same mode of speaking is often used in the Scriptures, where we not only find the Roman empire termed the world, (even all the world,) as Luke 2:1; Acts 11:28; but also Babylon, (Isaiah 13:11,) and this very land of Judea, John 12:19; and John 18:20. The haughty people of the land — Hebrew, מרום עם, the height of the people, those of the highest dignity in it; or the lofty people, as Bishop Lowth renders it. Not only common people are depressed and stink in sorrow, but the magistrates and rulers, the rich and powerful, the haughty and high-minded. Indeed, these are wont to suffer most under such calamities, either as having most to lose, or as not being used to hardships.
The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.Isaiah 24:5-6. The earth also — Rather, And the land is defiled under the inhabitants thereof — By the wickedness of its people. Here we have the causes of the divine judgment upon the land: because they have transgressed the laws — The laws of God revealed to them, and pressed upon them in a singular manner; changed the ordinance — God’s ordinances concerning his worship and service; broken the everlasting covenant — The covenant made between God and Abraham, and all his posterity, which was everlasting, both on God’s part, who, upon the conditions therein expressed, engaged himself to be a God to them, and to their seed for ever; and on Israel’s part, who were obliged thereby to constant and perpetual obedience through all generations. Therefore hath the curse — The curse of God threatened to transgressors; devoured the earth — See this illustrated Zechariah 5:1. And they that dwell therein are desolate — Reduced to poverty, by the spoiling of their goods. The inhabitants are burned — Destroyed by fire and sword, or consumed by the wrath of God, which is often compared to fire; and few men left — The prophet’s general meaning is, that the inhabitants of the land should waste away and be consumed, being partly cut off by the sword, partly dispersed by the public calamities, partly destroyed by famine, and partly carried into captivity, so that but few of them should remain, and they only of the poorer sort. And this was the face of things in Judea at the time referred to.
Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.
The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted do sigh.Isaiah 24:7-9. The new wine mourneth, &c. — In these verses we have a description, in metaphorical language, of the ruin and desolation brought on a once flourishing land by a destructive enemy. The wine, figuratively speaking, mourns, because there are none, or none but enemies to God and Israel, to drink it. The vine languisheth — Because there are no people left to dress it, or gather its grapes; or because it is broken down and spoiled by the enemy. In other words, the vineyards are destroyed, and the fruits of the earth consumed by hostile invasions. The mirth of tabrets ceaseth — There is no place for mirth or rejoicing, much less for the usual expressions of it, when men are under such great calamities. They shall not drink wine with a song — Those that can command wine under this scarcity will have no heart to drink it: nor would it, if drunk, be able to cheer their spirits amidst such great troubles.
The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.
They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.
The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.Isaiah 24:10-12. The city — Jerusalem, and other cities, for the word may be here taken collectively; of confusion — Hebrew, תהו, which signifies vanity, emptiness, desolation, or confusion. And the city may be thus called, either, 1st, In regard of the judgments of God coming upon it, as if he had termed it a city devoted to desolation and destruction: or, 2d, For its sin, a city of confusion and disorder; breaking all the laws and orders which God had established among them; or a city walking in and after vanity, worshipping vain idols, and pursuing vain things. And this may seem the most proper and suitable, that the sin of the city should be pointed out in this word, as the punishment is expressed in the next; is broken down — Its walls, palaces, and temple battered down and demolished; every house is shut up — Either for fear of the enemy, who have entered the city, or because the inhabitants are either fled or dead, or gone into captivity. This seems to be only applicable to the destruction of the city by the Chaldeans, or by the Romans. There is a crying for wine — For the want or loss of their wine; or for the spoiling of the vintage, whereby they were deprived of the means both of their profit and pleasure. In the city is desolation — In Jerusalem itself, that had been so much frequented, there shall be left nothing but desolation; grass shall grow in the streets. The gate is smitten with destruction — The gates of the city are totally ruined, so that the enemy may enter when and where they please. Or, all that used to pass and repass through the gates are smitten, and all the strength of the city is destroyed. How soon can God make a city of order, a city of confusion; and then it will soon be a city of desolation!
There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.
In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction.
When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.Isaiah 24:13-14. When thus it shall be in the midst of the land, &c. — When this judgment shall be executed, there shall he left a remnant; as there are some few olives or grapes left after the vintage is over. They shall lift up their voice, &c. — The remnant shall sing for the glorious power and goodness of God manifested in their deliverance. They shall cry aloud —
In a way of exultation and thanksgiving to God; from the sea — From the isles of the sea, as it is expressed in Isaiah 24:15, that is, from the isles of the Western or Mediterranean sea, whither many of the Jews were scattered, and where they sojourned. “The great distresses brought upon Israel and Judah drove the people away, and dispersed them all over the neighbouring countries; they fled to Egypt, to Asia Minor, to the islands and coasts of Greece. They were to be found in great numbers in most of the principal cities of these countries. Alexandria was, in a great measure, peopled by them. They had synagogues for their worship in many places; and were greatly instrumental in propagating the knowledge of the true God among these heathen nations, and preparing them for the reception of Christianity. This is what the prophet seems to mean by the celebration of the name of JEHOVAH in the distant coasts, and in the uttermost parts of the land.” — Bishop Lowth.
They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea.
Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea.Isaiah 24:15. Wherefore glorify ye the Lord — These seem to be the words of the prophet directing and exciting God’s people to glorify him in their afflictions, because of that deliverance which he had promised, and would assuredly grant them; in the fires — When you are in the furnace of affliction. But, as the word בארים, here translated, in the fires, is not used elsewhere in Scripture, in this sense, others render it, in the valleys; and others again, in the holes, or caves: as if he had said, Glorify ye the Lord, who are forced to hide yourselves in secret places. Possibly, however, the word may be better rendered, for lights, or illuminations, which may be understood, either of the light of the truth which God would reveal to them, or of the comfort which God would confer upon them, light being frequently taken in both senses in Scripture. For this Hebrew word, in all other places of Scripture where it is found, signifies the Urim, which was in the high-priest’s breast-plate, and which properly signifies lights or illuminations, as both Jews and Christians understand it: see note on Exodus 28:30. Add to this, that this part of the prophecy seems to concern the days of the gospel, and that light which the Jews should then receive by the Messiah, of whom the high-priest, with his ephod and urim, was a type. Thus understood, this is an exhortation to the converted Jews to bless God for the true Urim, even for Christ and the gospel. The name of the Lord in the isles of the sea — In remote countries beyond the sea, which in Scripture are commonly called isles. It is a just observation of Mr. Scott, that “the chief accomplishment of this prophecy seems to have been after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. At that season there was a small company like the gleanings of the vine, or of the olive, which had embraced Christianity; and wherever they were dispersed among the nations, and in the isles of the sea, they lifted up their voice in songs of praise, while they beheld the majesty of God displayed in accomplishing these predictions; and mingled thanksgivings with their fervent prayers; nay, they excited one another to glorify God in the fiery trial of persecution, and though banished to the remotest regions. The destruction of Jerusalem was exceedingly conducive to the establishment of the Christian Church; and, in this respect, was the subject of joy and praise to the primitive Christians.”
From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.Isaiah 24:16. From the uttermost part, &c. — From all parts of the earth, or land, where the Jews are, or shall be, have we heard songs — Songs of joy and praise; even glory to the righteous — By the righteous, may be here understood, either, 1st, righteous and holy men, who formerly were despised, but now shall be honoured; or, 2d, the Lord, the righteous one, as the Hebrew לצדיק, being singular, properly means; or, 3d, the Messiah, to whom this title of the just, or righteous one, is frequently given. But I said — But in the midst of these joyous tidings, I discern something which interrupts my joys, and gives me cause of bitter complaint and lamentation; My leanness! my leanness! — I faint and pine away for grief; for the following reason: The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously — The Jews, who have been frequently guilty of great perfidiousness toward God, are now acting the same part. This he speaks of those who should live when the Messiah should be upon earth, fore- seeing, by the Holy Spirit, that they would forsake God and reject their Messiah, and thereby bring utter destruction upon themselves. For even the Hebrew doctors expound this place of the perfidiousness of some Jews in the times of the Messiah. And it is not strange that so sad a sight made the prophet cry out, My leanness, &c., the treacherous dealers, &c. This he repeats, to show the horridness of the crime, and how deeply he was affected with it.
Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.Isaiah 24:17-18. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, &c. — Great and various judgments, some actually inflicted, and others justly feared, as the punishment of the last-mentioned perfidiousness of the Jews toward God and their own Messiah. He that fleeth from the fear, &c. — Upon the report of some terrible evil coming toward him; shall fall into the pit — When he designs to avoid one danger, by so doing he shall plunge himself into another and greater mischief. For the windows from on high are opened, &c. — Both heaven and earth conspire against him. He alludes to the deluge of waters which God poured down from heaven, and to the earthquake which he often causes below. There is a remarkable elegance in the original of the 17th verse. The three Hebrew words, פחד, pachad, פחת, pachath, and פח, pach, being a paronomasia, or having an affinity in sound with each other, which cannot be translated into another language. And there is also great sublimity in the latter clause of the 18th verse, in which the ideas and expressions, taken from the deluge, are strongly expressive of that deluge of divine wrath which should fall upon, and totally overwhelm, the apostate Jews for rejecting and crucifying their own Messiah.
And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.
The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.Isaiah 24:19-20. The earth is utterly broken down — This is repeated again, to show the dreadfulness and certainty of these judgments, and to awaken the stupid Israelites. The earth shall reel to and fro — The people of the earth, the inhabitants of the land, shall be sorely perplexed and distressed, not knowing what to do, or whither to go. Or rather, the prophet here, in metaphorical expressions, borrowed from an earthquake, signifies how terribly Judea should be shaken by wars, desolations, and other divine judgments, to the entire overthrow of their church and commonwealth; and shall be removed — The people shall be removed, or their constitution, civil and religious, like a cottage — Or, like a lodge in a garden, of which this word is used, Isaiah 1:8, which is soon taken down and set up in another place: or, like a tent, which is easily and commonly carried from place to place. And the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it — Upon their state and nation, especially the sin of crucifying the Lord of glory. And it shall fall — Their government shall be overturned, their state dissolved, and their nation ruined; and not rise again — Not till the latter days, when they shall believe in and receive Him whom they rejected and crucified.
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.Isaiah 24:21-22. It shall come to pass in that day — At or soon after the time when God shall execute the above-mentioned judgment on the apostate Jews; that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones — The proud and potent enemies of his people, who possess the high places of the earth; and the kings of the earth — The great monarchs of the world, who now scorn and trample on his people. Some think the idolatrous persecuting Roman empire is here intended, but what follows seems to require that we should understand these verses as a further prediction of the ruin of the Jewish constitution in church and state. Bishop Lowth translates them, Jehovah shall summon on high the host that is on high; and on earth the kings of the earth; which he interprets of “the ecclesiastical and civil polity of the Jews, which were to be destroyed;” the host of the high ones meaning the chief priests, with the high-priest at their head, or their ecclesiastical government, and the kings of the earth their civil power; the name of king being frequently given in Scripture unto inferior rulers. And they shall be gathered together — By God’s special providence, in order to their punishment. And thus the unbelieving Jews were generally gathered together at Jerusalem, to their solemn feasts, when Titus came and besieged and destroyed them; and shall be shut up in prison — As malefactors, which are taken in several places, are usually brought to one common prison. After many days they shall be visited — After the apostate Jews shall have been shut up in unbelief, and in great tribulations for many ages together, they shall be convinced of their sin in crucifying the Messiah, and brought home to God and Christ by true repentance. “The nation,” says Bishop Lowth, “shall continue in a state of depression and dereliction for a long time. The image seems to be taken from the practice of the great monarchs of that time, who, when they had thrown their wretched captives into a dungeon, never gave themselves the trouble of inquiring about them, but let them lie a long time in that miserable condition, wholly destitute of relief, and disregarded. God shall at length revisit and restore his people in the last age: and then the kingdom of God shall be established in such perfection, as wholly to obscure and eclipse the glory of the temporary, typical, preparative kingdom now subsisting,” as is signified in the next verse.
And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.
Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.Isaiah 24:23. Then the moon shall be confounded — The shadowy, typical, temporary, and imperfect dispensation of Moses, which afforded only a dim and uncertain light, like that of the moon, shall be eclipsed and vanish; and the sun ashamed — The glory of the civil government, also even of the kingdom of David itself, shall be obscured by the far greater splendour of the kingdom of Christ, the King of kings, at whose feet the kings of the earth shall fall down and worship. When the Lord of hosts — The Messiah, who, though man, is yet also God, and the Lord of hosts; shall reign in mount Zion, &c. — Shall come in the flesh, and set up his kingdom, first in Jerusalem, and afterward in all other nations; before his ancients — His ministers, who are, in some sort, the courtiers of this King of glory, as being continually attendant upon him, enjoying his presence, and executing the offices intrusted to them; and especially before his apostles, who were the witnesses of his divine words and works, and particularly of his resurrection and ascension, by which he entered upon his kingdom; and of the exercise of his royal power in subduing both Jews and Gentiles to himself. The word ancient, or elder, is not a name of age, but of office. And the ancients here represent, and are put for, the whole church, in whose name, and for whose service, they act.
Some think that, at the twenty-first verse, a transition is made from the ruin of the Jewish nation for opposing the gospel, to the destruction of the anti- christian powers, which is to introduce the general prevalence of true religion, and the glory of Christ’s millennial reign; and that the twenty-first and twenty-second verses are intended of that destruction. There is, however, this objection to that interpretation: it is not reconcileable with the last clause of Isaiah 24:22, namely, after many days they shall be visited. For surely these antichristian powers are not to be visited and restored. This clause indeed, considering the connection in which it stands, does not seem to be applicable to any event predicted in Scripture, but the conversion and restoration of the Jewish nation after the many ages of their dereliction and depression. Then, however, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in, and all Israel shall be saved, the twenty-third verse shall receive a far more complete accomplishment. The Messiah’s kingdom shall then appear in its greatest glory on earth; and the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed. Not only the borrowed light of inferior and subordinate states, but the splendour of the mightiest empires shall be eclipsed and put to shame by it.