Introduction to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
On the term prophet, and on the nature and several kinds of prophecy, I have already discoursed in different parts of this work. See the notes on Genesis 15:1 (note); Genesis 20:7 (note), and the preface to the four Gospels, and Acts of the Apostles. A few things only require to be recapitulated. נבא naba signifies not only to foretell future events, but also to pray and supplicate; and נביא nabi, the prophet, was by office not only a declarer of events still future, but the general preacher of the day; and as he frequently foresaw the approach of disastrous times, such was the wickedness of the people, he employed his time in counseling sinners to turn from the error of their ways, and in making strong prayer and supplication to God to avert the threatened judgments: for such predictions, however apparently positive in their terms, were generally conditional; strange as this may appear to some who, through their general ignorance of every thing but the peculiarities of their own creed, suppose that every occurrence is impelled by an irresistible necessity.
To his own conduct, in reference to such matters, God has been pleased to give us a key (see Jeremiah 18.) which opens all difficulties, and furnishes us with a general comment on his own providence. God is absolute master of his own ways; and as he has made man a free agent, whatever concerns him in reference to futurity, on which God is pleased to express his mind in the way of prophecy, there is a condition generally implied or expressed. As this is but seldom attended to by partial interpreters, who wish by their doctrine of fatalism to bind even God himself, many contradictory sentiments are put in the mouths of his prophets.
In ancient times those who were afterwards called Prophets were termed Seers; 1 Samuel 9:9. הראה haroeh, the seeing person; he who perceives mentally what the design of God is. Sometimes called also חזה chozeh, the man who has visions, or supernatural revelations; 1 Kings 22:17; 2 Kings 17:13. Both these terms are translated seer in our common Version. They were sometimes called men of God, and messengers or angels of God. In their case it was ever understood that all God's prophets had an extraordinary commission and had their message given them by immediate inspiration.
In this the heathen copied after the people of God. They also had their prophets and seers; and hence their augurs and auguries, their haruspices, and priestesses, and their oracles; all pretending to be divinely inspired, and to declare nothing but the truth; for what was truth and fact among the former, was affected and pretended among the latter.
Many prophets and seers are mentioned in the sacred writings; but, fragments and insulated prophecies excepted, we have the works of only Sixteen; four of whom are termed the former or larger prophets, and twelve, the latter or minor prophets. They have these epithets, not from priority of time, or from minor importance, but merely from the places they occupy in the present arrangement of the books in the Bible, and from the relative size of their productions.
The Jews reckon forty-eight prophets, and seven prophetesses; and Epiphanius, in a fragment preserved by Cotelerius, reckons not fewer than seventy-three prophets, and ten prophetesses; but in both collections there are many which have no Scriptural pretensions to such a distinguished rank.
The succession of prophets in the Jewish Church is well worthy of note, because it not only manifests the merciful regards of God towards that people, but also the uninterrupted succession of the prophetic influence, at least from Moses to Malachi, if not before; for this gift was not withheld under the patriarchal dispensation; indeed we might boldly ask any man to show when the time was in which God left himself without a witness of this kind.
To show this succession, I shall endeavor to give the different prophets in order of time.
1. The first man, Adam, has an undoubted right to stand at the head of the prophets, as he does at the head of the human race. His declaration concerning marriage, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife," is so truly prophetic, that no doubt can be formed on the subject. There was then nothing in nature or experience to justify such an assertion; and he could have it only by Divine inspiration. The millions of instances which have since occurred, and the numerous laws which have been founded on this principle among all the nations of the earth, show with what precision the declaration was conceived, and with what truth it was published to the world. Add to this, his correct knowledge of the nature of the different animals, so that he could impose on them names expressive of their respective natures or propensities; which proves that he must have acted under a Divine inspiration; for known only to God are all his works from the beginning.
2. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, is expressly called a prophet; and St. Jude, Jde 1:14, Jde 1:15, has preserved a fragment of one of his prophecies, relative to the corruption of the ante-diluvian world, and the approaching judgments of God.
3. Noah was a prophet and preacher of righteousness, and predicted the general deluge, and the time of respite which God in his mercy had granted to the offenders of that age.
5. Isaac, Genesis 27:27, predicted the future greatness of his son Jacob, and of the race that was to spring from him.
6. Jacob was so especially favored with the prophetic gift, that he distinctly foretold what should happen to each of his sons. See Genesis 49.
7. Joseph was favored with several prophetic visions, and had the gift of interpreting dreams which portended future occurrences; (see Genesis 27, 40, 41.); and foretold the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt; Genesis 50:25. Thus far the prophetic influence extended through the patriarchal dispensation for about two thousand three hundred and seventy years from the creation.
With the Jewish dispensation the prophetic gift revived; and,
8. Moses became one of the most eminent prophets that had ever appeared. He not only enjoyed the continual prophetic afflatus, but had such visions of and intercourse with God as no other person either before or since was favored with; and by which he was highly qualified to perform the arduous work which God had given him to do, and to frame that Code of Laws which had no equal before the promulgation of the Gospel. See Deuteronomy 24:10. He predicted expressly the coming of the Messiah. See Deuteronomy 18:18.
9. Aaron, the brother of Moses, his prime minister and God's high priest, was also a partaker of his Divine influence, and declared the will of God to Pharaoh and the Israelites, not merely from information received from Moses, but also by immediate communication from God. See Exodus 4:15.
11. Joshua, who succeeded Moses, was a partaker of the same grace. He was appointed by Moses under the especial direction of God; Numbers 27:18-23; Deuteronomy 34:9; and has always been reckoned among the Jews as one of the prophets. See Sirach 46:1-6. Though I cannot place them in the same rank, yet it is necessary to state that, by the Jews, several of the judges are classed among the prophets; such as Othniel, Ehud, Samson, and Barak.
12. Deborah, the coadjutor of Barak, is called a prophetess, Judges 4:4. During her time, and down to the days of Eli the high priest, prophecy had been very scarce, there having been very few on whom the Spirit of the Lord had rested; for "the word of the Lord was scarce in those days, and there was no open vision;" 1 Samuel 3:1.
13. Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, is supposed to have partaken of the spirit of prophecy; and to have foretold, at least indirectly, the advent of the Messiah, and the glory that should be revealed under the Gospel. See her Song, 1 Samuel 2:1-10. And what renders this more likely is, that it is on the model, and with many of the expressions, of this song, that the blessed Virgin composed her Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55.
14. Samuel, her son, was one of the most eminent of the Jewish prophets, and was the last, and indeed the greatest, of the judges of Israel. In his time the prophetic influence seems to have rested upon many; so that we find even whole schools or colleges of prophets which were under his direction. See 1 Samuel 10:5, 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:20, and elsewhere.
15. David united in himself the character of prophet and king, in the most eminent manner; and from his reign down to the captivity the succession was not only not interrupted, but these extraordinary messengers of God became very numerous.
16. Gad flourished under his reign, and was emphatically called David's Seer, 2 Samuel 24:11; 1 Chronicles 21:9, 1 Chronicles 21:19, 1 Chronicles 21:20; and it appears that he had written a Book of Prophecies, which is now lost, 1 Chronicles 29:29.
18. To Solomon also, son of David, the prophetic gift has been attributed. This might be implied in the extraordinary wisdom with which God had endowed him, 1 Kings 3:5-9; 2 Chronicles 1:7; 2 Chronicles 7:12; and in his writings several prophetic declarations may be found, even independently of the supposed reference to Christ and his Church in the Song of Solomon.
20. Shemaiah lived under Rehoboam; he is called a man of God, and to him the word of prophecy came relative to Judah and Benjamin, 1 Kings 12:22-24. Some think this was the same person who was sent to Jeroboam relative to his idolatry; see 1 Kings 13:1, etc.
21. Ahijah, the Shilonite, prophesied to Jeroboam, 1 Kings 11:29-39.
22. Hanani the Seer prophesied under Azariah and Asa, 2 Chronicles 16:7.
24. Azariah, the son of Oded, prophesied under Asa, 2 Chronicles 15:1.
25. Elijah prophesied under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel.
26. Elisha succeeded Elijah under the same reigns. And these eminent men had many disciples on whom the spirit of prophecy rested. They, and their masters, Elijah and Elisha, prophesied in the kingdoms both of Israel and Judah. Their histories make a prominent part of the first and second Books of Kings; and are well known.
27. Micaiah, the son of Imlah, prophesied under the same reign, 1 Kings 21:9.
28. Hosea prophesied under Jeroboam the second, king of Israel, and under the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah.
29. Isaiah was contemporary with Hosea, but probably began to prophesy a little later than he did.
30. Amos prophesied about the same time.
31. Jonah, son of Amittai, is supposed to have been contemporary with the above.
32. Eliezer, the son of Dodavah, prophesied against Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah, 2 Chronicles 20:37.
33. Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, prophesied against Judah and Israel under the same reign, 2 Chronicles 20:14.
34. Micah prophesied against Samaria and Jerusalem, in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.
35. Oded, father of Azariah, prophesied against Asa, 2 Chronicles 15:8.
36. Nahum prophesied under Hezekiah.
37. Joel, under Josiah.
38. Jeremiah, about the same time.
39. Zephaniah, under the same reign. See their prophecies.
40. Huldah, the prophetess, was contemporary with the above.
41. Igdaliah, called a man of God, and probably a prophet, was contemporary with Jeremiah, Jeremiah 35:4.
42. Habakkuk 54ed about the end of the reign of Josiah, or the beginning of that of Jehoiakim.
43. Ezekiel 54ed under the captivity; and prophesied in Mesopotamia, about the time that Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem.
44. Obadiah 54ed in Judea, after the capture of Jerusalem and before the desolation of Idumea by Nebuchadnezzar.
45. Daniel prophesied in Babylon during the captivity.
46. Haggai prophesied during and after the captivity.
48. Zechariah, son of Barachiah, flourished in the second year of Darius, after the captivity.
49. Malachi 54ed under Nehemiah, and some time after Haggai and Zechariah.
Here is a succession of divinely inspired men, by whom God at sundry times and in divers manners spake unto the fathers, from the beginning of the world down to the restoration from the Babylonish captivity, a period of three thousand six hundred years. From the time of Malachi, who was the last of the prophets, till the advent of Christ, a period of nearly four hundred years elapsed without vision or prophecy: but during the whole of that interval the Jews had the law and the prophetical writings, to which, till the time of Christ, there was no necessity to add any thing; for God had with the writings of the last mentioned prophet completed the canon of the Old Testament, nothing being further necessary, till he should, in the fullness of time, superadd the Gospel; and this having taken place, vision and prophecy are now for ever sealed up, and the temple of God is established among all genuine believers in Christ Jesus.
It is not easy to ascertain the order in which the sixteen prophets, whose writings are preserved, have succeeded to each other. There are chronological notes prefixed to several of their prophecies, which assist to settle generally the times of the whole. Several were contemporary, as the reader has already seen in the preceding list. The major and minor prophets may be thus arranged: -
1. Jonah, under the reign of Jeroboam the second.
2. Hosea, under Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, etc.
3. Joel, contemporary with Hosea.
4. Amos, under Uzziah and Jeroboam the second.
5. Isaiah, under Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
6. Micah, contemporary with Isaiah.
7. Nahum, under the reign of Hezekiah.
8. Habakkuk, under the reign of Manasseh or Josiah.
9. Zephaniah, under Josiah.
10. Jeremiah, from Josiah to Zedekiah.
11. Daniel, under the captivity, after Zedekiah.
12. Ezekiel, at the same time.
13. Obadiah, during the captivity.
14. Haggai began to prophecy in the second year of Darius.
16. Malachi, under Nehemiah. The last of all the prophets.
The works of these prophets constitute the principal and most important part of what is called The Bible or Old Testament.
On the style of the prophets much has been said by several learned men; particularly Calmet, Lowth, Bishop Newton, Vitringa, Michaelis, and Houbigant. Their chief observations, and especially those most within the reach of the common people, have been selected and abridged with great care and industry by the Revelation Dr. John Smith, of Cambleton, in his little Tract entitled "A Summary View and Explanation of the Writings of the Prophets," to which it forms preliminary observations, drawn up at the desire of the Scottish Society for propagating Christian Knowledge, in a small 8vo. 1804. From this work I thankfully borrow what concerns the present subject; taking occasion at the same time to recommend the whole to all Christian ministers, to private persons, and to all families who wish to read the prophets to their edification.
"The writings of the prophets, the most sublime and beautiful in the world, lose much of that usefulness and effect which they are so well calculated to produce on the souls of men, from their not being more generally understood. Many prophecies are somewhat dark, till events explain them. They are, besides, delivered in such lofty and figurative terms, and with such frequent allusions to the customs and manners of times and places the most remote, that ordinary readers cannot, without some help, be supposed capable of understanding them. It must therefore be of use to make the language of prophecy as intelligible as may be, by explaining those images and figures of speech in which it most frequently abounds; and this may be done generally, even when the prophecies themselves are obscure.
"Some prophecies seem as if it were not intended that they should be clearly understood before they are fulfilled. As they relate to different periods, they may have been intended for exciting the attention of mankind from time to time both to providence and to Scripture and to furnish every age with new evidence of Divine revelation; by which means they serve the same purpose to the last ages of the world that miracles did to the first. Whereas, if they had been in every respect clear and obvious from the beginning, this wise purpose had been in a great measure defeated. Curiosity, industry, and attention would at once be at an end, or, by being too easily gratified, would be little exercised.
"Besides, a great degree of obscurity is necessary to some prophecies before they can be fulfilled; and if not fulfilled, the consequence would not be so beneficial to mankind. Thus many of the ancient prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem had a manifest relation to the remoter destruction by the Romans, as well as to the nearer one by the Chaldeans. Had the Jews perceived this, which was not indeed clear enough till the event explained it, they would probably have wished to have remained for ever in their captivity at Babylon, rather than expose themselves or their offspring a second time to a destruction so dreadful as that which they had already experienced.
"With respect to our times, by far the greatest number of prophecies relate to events which are now past; and therefore a sufficient acquaintance with history, and with the language and style of prophecy, is all that is requisite to understand them. Some prophecies, however, relate to events still future; and these too may be understood in general although some particular circumstances connected with them may remain obscure till they are fulfilled. If prophecies were not capable of being understood in general, we should not find the seers so often blamed in this respect for their ignorance and want of discernment. That they did actually understand many of them when they chose to search the Scriptures we know. Daniel understood, from the prophecies of Jeremiah, the time at which the captivity in Babylon was to be at an end; and the scribes knew from Micah, and told Herod, where the Messiah was to be born. A very little attention might have enabled them in the same manner to understand others, as they probably did; such as the seventy weeks of Daniel; the destruction of the Babylonian empire, and of the other three that were to succeed; and also of the ruin of the people and places around them, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, Sidon, Philistia, Egypt, and Idumea. Perhaps, indeed, a few enigmatical circumstances might have been annexed, which could not be understood till they were accomplished; but the general tenor of the prophecies they could be at no loss to understand. With regard to prophecies still future, we are in a similar situation. It is understood in general, that the Jews will be gathered from their dispersions, restored to their own land, and converted to Christianity; that the fullness of the Gentiles will likewise come in; that Antichrist, Gog and Magog, and all the enemies of the Church will be destroyed; after which the Gospel will remarkably flourish, and be more than ever glorified. But several circumstances connected with those general events must probably remain in the dark till their accomplishment shall clearly explain them.
"But this degree of obscurity which sometimes attends prophecy does not always proceed from the circumstances or subject; it frequently proceeds from the highly poetical and figurative style, in which prophecy is for the most part conveyed, and of which it will be proper to give some account. To speak of all the rhetorical figures with which the prophets adorn their style would lead us into a field too wide, and would be more the province of the rhetorician than of the commentator. It will be sufficient for our purpose at present to attend to the most common of them, consisting of allegory, parable, and metaphor, and then to consider the sources from which the prophets most frequently borrow their images in those figures, and the sense which they wish to convey by them.
"By allegory, the first of the figures mentioned, is meant that mode of speech in which the writer or speaker means to convey a different idea from what the words in their obvious and primary signification bear. Thus, 'Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns,' (Jeremiah 4:3), is to be understood, not of tillage, but of repentance. And these words, 'Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters, the east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas,' Ezekiel 27:26, allude not to the fate of a ship, but of a city.
"To this figure the parable, in which the prophets frequently speak, is nearly allied. It consists in the application of some feigned narrative to some real truth, which might have been less striking or more disagreeable if expressed in plain terms. Such is the following one of Isaiah, Isaiah 5:1, Isaiah 5:2 : 'My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.' The seventh verse tells us that this vineyard was the house of Israel, which had so ill requited the favor which God had shown it. On this subject see the dissertation at the end of the notes on Matthew 13 (note).
"There is, besides, another kind of allegory not uncommon with the prophets, called mystical allegory or double prophecy. Thus it is said of Eliakim, Isaiah 22:22 : 'And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.' In the first and obvious sense, the words relate to Eliakim; but in the secondary or mystical sense, to the Messiah. Instances of the same kind are frequent in those prophecies that relate to David, Zerubbabel, Cyrus, and other types of Christ. In the first sense the words relate to the type; in the second, to the antitype. The use of this allegory, however, is not so frequent as that of the former. It is generally confined to things most nearly connected with the Jewish religion; with Israel, Sion, Jerusalem, and its kings and rulers; or such as were most opposite to these, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Idumea, and the like. In the former kind of allegory the primitive meaning is dropped, and the figurative only is retained; in this, both the one and the other are preserved, and this is what constitutes the difference.
"But of all the figures used by the prophets the most frequent is the metaphor, by which words are transferred from their primitive and plain to a secondary meaning. This figure, common in all poetry and in all languages, is of indispensable necessity in Scripture, which, having occasion to speak of Divine and spiritual matters, could do it only by terms borrowed from sensible and material objects. Hence it is that the sentiments, actions, and corporeal parts, not only of man, but also of inferior creatures, are ascribed to God himself; it being otherwise impossible for us to form any conceptions of his pure essence and incommunicable attributes. But though the prophets, partly from necessity and partly from choice, are thus profuse in the use of metaphors, they do not appear, like other writers, to have the liberty of using them as fancy directed. The same set of images, however diversified in the manner of applying them, is always used, both in allegory and metaphor, to denote the same subjects, to which they are in a manner appropriated. This peculiar characteristic of the Hebrew poetry might perhaps be owing to some rules taught in the prophetic schools, which did not allow the same latitude in this respect as other poetry. Whatever it may be owing to, the uniform manner in which the prophets apply these images tends greatly to illustrate the prophetic style; and therefore it will be proper now to consider the sources from which those images are most frequently derived, and the subjects and ideas which they severally denote. These sources may be classed under four heads; natural, artificial, religious, and historical.
"I. The first and most copious, as well as the most pleasing source of images in the prophetic writings, as in all other poetry, is nature; and the principal images drawn from nature, together with their application, are the following: -
"The sun, moon, and stars, the highest objects in the natural world, figuratively represent kings, queens, and princes or rulers; the highest in the world politic. 'The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed;' Isaiah 24:23. 'I will cover the heavens, and make the stars thereof dark: I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light;' Ezekiel 32:7.
"Light and darkness are used figuratively for joy and sorrow, prosperity and adversity. 'We wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness;' Isaiah 59:9. An uncommon degree of light denotes an uncommon degree of joy and prosperity, and vice versa. 'The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold;' Isaiah 30:26. The same metaphors are likewise used to denote knowledge and ignorance. 'If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them;' Isaiah 8:20. 'The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light;' Isaiah 9:2.
"Dew, moderate rains, gentle streams, and running waters denote the blessings of the Gospel. 'Thy dew is as the dew of herbs;' Isaiah 26:19. 'He shall come unto us as the rain;' Hosea 6:3. 'I will water it every moment;' Isaiah 27:3. 'I will pour water on him that is thirsty;' Isaiah 44:3.
"Immoderate rains on the other hand, hail, floods, deep waters, torrents, and inundations, denote judgments and destruction. 'I will rain upon him an overflowing rain, and great hailstones,' Ezekiel 38:22. 'Waters rise up out of the north, and shall overflow the land,' Jeremiah 47:2.
"Fire also, and the east wind, parching and hurtful, frequently denote the same. 'They shall cast thy choice cedars into the fire,' Jeremiah 22:7. 'He stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind,' Isaiah 27:8.
"Wind in general is often taken in the same sense. 'The wind shall eat up all thy pastures,' Jeremiah 22:22. Sometimes it is put for any thing empty or fallacious, as well as hurtful. 'The prophets shall become wind,' Jeremiah 5:13. 'They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind,' Hosea 8:7.
"Lebanon and Carmel; the one remarkable for its height and stately cedars, was the image of majesty, strength, or anything very great or noble. 'He shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one,' Isaiah 10:34. 'The Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon,' Ezekiel 31:3. The other mountain (Carmel) being fruitful, and abounding in vines and olives, denoted beauty and fertility. 'The glory of Lebanon shall be given it, the excellency of Carmel,' Isaiah 35:2. The vine alone is a frequent image of the Jewish Church. 'I had planted thee a noble vine,' Jeremiah 2:21.
"Rams and bullocks of Bashan, lions, eagles, sea-monsters, or any animals of prey, are figures frequently used for cruel and oppressive tyrants and conquerors. 'Hear this word ye kine of Bashan, which oppress the poor,' Amos 4:1. 'The lion is come up from his thicket,' Jeremiah 4:7. 'A great eagle came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar,' Ezekiel 17:3. 'Thou art as a whale in the seas,' Ezekiel 32:2. 'The unicorns shall come down, and their land shall be soaked with blood,' Isaiah 34:7.
"II. The ordinary occupations and customs of life, with the few arts practiced at the time, were another source from which the prophets derived many of their figures, particularly,
"From husbandry in all its parts, and from its implements. 'Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy: break up your fallow ground,' Hosea 10:12. 'Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe,' Joel 3:13. 'I am pressed under you, as a wain under a load of sheaves,' Amos 2:13. Threshing was performed in various ways, (mentioned Isaiah 28:24, etc.), which furnish a variety of images denoting punishment. 'Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion; for I will make thine horn iron, and thy hoofs brass,' etc., Micah 4:13. The operation was performed on rising grounds, where the chaff was driven away by the wind, while the grain remained; a fit emblem of the fate of the wicked, and of the salvation of the just. 'Behold, I will make thee a new threshing-instrument having teeth; thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and thou shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them,' Isaiah 41:15, Isaiah 41:16.
"The vintage and winepress also furnish many images, obvious enough in their application. 'The press is full, the fats overflow, for their wickedness is great,' Joel 3:13. 'I have trod the winepress alone. I will tread down the people in mine anger,' Isaiah 63:3, etc. As the vintage was gathered with shouting and rejoicing, the ceasing of the vintage-shouting is frequently one of the figures that denote misery and desolation. 'None shall tread with shouting; their shouting shall be no shouting,' Jeremiah 48:33.
"From the occupation of tending cattle we have many images. 'Wo unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture,' Jeremiah 23:1. The people are the flock; teachers and rulers the pastors. 'Israel is a scattered sheep, the lions have driven him away.' 'As a shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear,' etc., Amos 3:12. Some of the images derived from husbandry, tending cattle, etc., may perhaps appear mean to us; though not to the Jews, whose manner of life was simple and plain, and whose greatest men (such as Moses, David, Gideon, etc.) were often husbandmen and shepherds. Accordingly, the Messiah himself is frequently described under the character of a shepherd.
[See Fleury's Manners of the Israelites].
"It was customary in deep mournings to shave the head and beard, to retire to the housetops, which in those countries were flat, and furnished with little chambers adapted to the purposes of devotion or of sequestered grief; also to sing dirges at funerals, and to accompany them with a mournful sort of music; and from these and the like circumstances images are frequently borrowed by the prophets to denote the greatest danger, and the deepest distress. 'Mine heart shall sound for Moab like pipes.' 'Every head shall be bald, and every beard clipt - there shall be lamentation on all the house - tops of Moab,' Jeremiah 48:36-38; Isaiah 15:2, Isaiah 15:3.
"The mode of burying in the Jewish sepulchers, or 'sides of the pit,' and their Hades, or state of the dead, supplied many images of the same kind. See observations on Isaiah 14 (note), and Ezekiel 26:20 (note).
"According to the barbarous custom of those times, conquerors drove their captives before them almost naked, and exposed to the intolerable heat of the sun, and the inclemencies of the weather. They afterwards employed them frequently in grinding at the handmill, (watermills not being then invented); hence nakedness, and grinding at the mill, and sitting on the ground (the posture in which they wrought) express captivity. 'Descend and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; take the millstones - thy nakedness shall be uncovered,' Isaiah 47:1-3.
"The marriage relation supplied metaphors to express the relation or covenant between God and his people. On the other hand adultery, infidelity to the marriage bed, etc., denoted any breach of covenant with God, particularly the love and worship of idols. 'Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you,' Jeremiah 3:14. 'There were two women, the daughters of one mother, and they committed whoredoms - with their idols have they committed adultery,' etc., Ezekiel 23:2-37.
"The debility and stupefaction caused by intoxicating liquors suggested very apt images to express the terrible effects of the Divine judgments on those who are the unhappy objects of them. 'Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness, with the cup of thy sister Samaria,' Ezekiel 23:33.
"From the method of refining metals in the furnace images are often borrowed to denote the judgments inflicted by God on his people, with a view to cleanse them from their sins, as metal from its dross. 'Israel is dross in the midst of the furnace,' Ezekiel 22:18. 'He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver,' Malachi 3:3.
"Among the other few arts from which the Hebrew poets derive some of their images, are those of the fuller and potter, Malachi 3:2, etc.; Jeremiah 18:1, etc.; of which the application is obvious. No less so is that of images derived from fishing, fowling, and the implements belonging to them; the hook, net, pit, snare, etc., which generally denote captivity or destruction. 'I will send for many fishers, and they shall fish them; and for many hunters, and they shall hunt them; for their iniquity is not hid from mine eyes,' Jeremiah 16:16, Jeremiah 16:17. 'I will put hooks to thy jaws,' Ezekiel 29:4. 'Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth,' Isaiah 24:17.
"A few images are derived from building, as when the Messiah is denoted by a foundation and corner-stone, Isaiah 28:16. The next verse describes the rectitude of judgment by metaphors borrowed from the line and plummet; and by building with precious stones is denoted a very high degree of prosperity, whether applied to church or state, Isaiah 54:11, Isaiah 54:12.
"III. Religion, and things connected with it, furnished many images to the sacred poets.
"From the temple and its pompous service, from the tabernacle, shechinah, mercy-seat, etc., are derived a variety of images, chiefly serving to denote the glory of the Christian Church, the excellency of its worship, God's favor towards it, and his constant presence with it; the prophets speaking to the Jews in terms accommodated to their own ideas. 'And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a covering,' Isaiah 4:5. 'Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean,' Ezekiel 36:25. "The ceremonial law, and especially its distinctions between things clean and unclean, furnished a number of images, all obvious in their application. 'Wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings,' Isaiah 1:16. 'Their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman,' Ezekiel 36:17.
"The pontifical robes, which were very splendid, suggested several images expressive of the glory of both the Jewish and Christian Church. 'I clothed thee with broidered work,' etc., Ezekiel 16:10. 'He clothed me with the garments of salvation,' Isaiah 61:10. The prophets wore a rough upper garment; false prophets wore the like, in imitation of true ones; and to this there are frequent allusions. 'Neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive,' Zechariah 13:4.
"From the pots, and other vessels and utensils of the temple, are likewise borrowed a few metaphors obvious enough without explanation: 'Every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness,' Zechariah 14:21.
"The prophets have likewise many images that allude to the idolatrous rites of the neighboring nations, to their groves and high places, Isaiah 27:9, and to the worship paid to their idols, Baal, Molech, Chemosh, Gad, Meni, Ashtaroth, Tammuz, etc., Ezekiel 8:10-14.
"IV. Many of the metaphors and images used by the prophets are likewise borrowed from history, especially sacred.
"From the fall of angels: 'How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning;' Isaiah 14:12. 'Thou art the anointed cherub, - thou wast upon the holy mountain of God;' Ezekiel 28:14. And from the fall of man: 'Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God;' Ezekiel 28:13.
"From chaos: 'I beheld the earth, and, lo! it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light;' Jeremiah 4:23. 'He shall stretch over it the line of devastation, and the plummet of emptiness;' Isaiah 34:11.
"From the deluge: 'The windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake;' Isaiah 24:18.
"From the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: 'And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch;' Isaiah 34:9. Also from the destruction of the Hivites and Amorites, etc., Isaiah 17:9.
"The exodus and deliverance from Egypt, is frequently used to shadow forth other great deliverances: 'Thus saith the Lord, who maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters,' etc.; Isaiah 11:15, Isaiah 11:16; Isaiah 43:16-19; Isaiah 51:9, Isaiah 51:10, etc.
"From the descent on Sinai: 'Behold, the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down and tread on the high places of the earth; and the mountains shall be molten under him;' Micah 1:3, Micah 1:4.
"From the resurrection, the end of the world, and the last judgment, are derived many images, of which the application is natural and obvious: 'Thy dead men shall live, with my dead body shall they arise, - awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust,' etc.; Isaiah 26:19. 'And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down as a leaf falleth from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig-tree;' Isaiah 34:4.
"The foregoing account of the images which most frequently occur in the writings of the prophets may be of considerable use in studying their style; but as a thorough knowledge of this must be allowed to be of the highest importance, a few general remarks are farther added, although some part of them may appear to be superseded by what has been already observed.
1. Although the prophets use words so frequently in a figurative or metaphorical meaning; yet we ought not, without necessity, to depart from the primitive and original sense of language; and such a necessity there is, when the plain and original sense is less proper, less suitable to the subject and context, or contrary to other scriptures.
2. By images borrowed from the world natural the prophets frequently understand something analogous in the world politic. Thus, the sun, moon, stars, and heavenly bodies denote kings, queens, rulers, and persons in great power; their increase of splendor denotes increase of prosperity; their darkening, setting, or falling denotes a reverse of fortune, or the entire ceasing of that power or kingdom to which they refer. Great earthquakes, and the shaking of heaven and earth, denote the commotion and overthrow of kingdoms; and the beginning or end of the world, their rise or ruin.
3. The cedars of Lebanon, oaks of Bashan, fir-trees, and other stately trees of the forest, denote kings, princes, potentates, and persons of the highest rank; briers and thorns, the common people, or those of the meanest order.
4. High mountains and lofty hills, in like manner, denote kingdoms, republics, states, and cities; towers and fortresses signify defenders and protectors; ships of Tarshish, merchants or commercial people; and the daughter of any capital or mother city, the lesser cities or suburbs around it. Cities never conquered are farther styled virgins.
5. The prophets likewise describe kings and kingdoms by their ensigns; as Cyrus and the Romans by an eagle, the king of Macedon by a goat, and the king of Persia by a ram; these being the figures on their respective standards, or in the ornaments of their architecture.
6. The prophets in like manner borrow some of their images from ancient hieroglyphics, which they take in their usual acceptation: thus, a star was the emblem of a god or hero; a horn, the emblem of great power or strength; and a rod, the emblem of royalty; and they signify the same in the prophets.
7. The same prophecies have frequently a double meaning; and refer to different events, the one near, the other remote; the one temporal, the other spiritual, or perhaps eternal. The prophets having thus several events in their eye, their expressions may be partly applicable to one, and partly to another; and it is not always easy to mark the transitions. Thus, the prophecies relating to the first and second restoration of the Jews, and first and second coming of our Lord, are often interwoven together; like our Savior's own prediction (Matthew 24.) concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world. What has not been fulfilled in the first, we must apply to the second; and what has been already fulfilled may often be considered as typical of what still remains to be accomplished.
8. Almost all the prophecies of the Old Testament, whatever view they may have to nearer events, are ultimately to be referred to the New, where only we are to look for their full completion. Thus Babylon, under the Old Testament, was a type of mystical Babylon under the New; and the king of Syria, (Antiochus Epiphanes), a type of Antichrist; the temporal enemies of the Jews, types and figures of the spiritual enemies of Christians. We must not, however, expect to find always a mystical meaning in prophecy; and when the near and most obvious meaning is plain, and gives a good sense, we need not depart from it, nor be over-curious to look beyond it.
9. In prophecies, as in parables, we are chiefly to consider the scope and design, without attempting too minute an explication of all the poetical images and figures which the sacred writers use to adorn their style.
10. Prophecies of a general nature are applicable by accommodation to individuals; most of the things that are spoken of the Church in general being no less applicable to its individual members.
11. Prophecies of a particular nature, on the other hand, admit, and often require, to be extended. Thus, Edom, Moab, or any of the enemies of God's people, is often put for the whole; what is said of one being generally applicable to the rest.
12. In like manner, what is said to or of any of God's people, on any particular occasion, is of general application and use; all that stand in the same relation to God having an interest in the same promises.
13. A cup of intoxicating liquor is frequently used to denote the indignation of God; and the effects of such a cup, the effects of his displeasure.
14. As the covenant of God with his people is represented under the figure of marriage; so their breach of that covenant, especially their idolatry, is represented by whoredom, adultery, and infidelity to the marriage bed; on which the prophets sometimes enlarge, to excite detestation of the crime. The epithet strange does likewise, almost always, relate to something connected with idolatry.
15. Persons or nations are frequently said in Scripture to be related to those whom they resemble in their life and conduct. In the same manner, men are denoted by animals whose qualities they resemble. A definite number, such as three, four, seven, ten, etc., is sometimes used by the prophets for an indefinite, and commonly denotes a great many.
16. In the reckoning of time, a day is used by the prophets to denote a year; and things still future, to denote their certainty, are spoken of as already past.
17. When the prophets speak of the last or latter days, they always mean the days of the Messiah, or the time of the Gospel dispensation. That day means often the same, and always some period at a distance.
18. When places are mentioned as lying north, south, east, or west, it is generally to be understood of their situation with respect to Judea or Jerusalem, when the context does not plainly restrict the scene to some other place.
19. By the earth, or the word so translated, the prophets frequently mean the land of Judea; and sometimes, says Sir Isaac Newton, the great continent of all Asia and Africa, to which they had access by land. By the isles of the sea, on the other hand, they understood the places to which they sailed, particularly all Europe, and probably the islands and seacoasts of the Mediterranean.
20. The greatest part of the prophetic writings was first composed in verse, and still retains, notwithstanding all the disadvantages of a literal prose translation, much of the air and cast of the original, particularly in the division of the lines, and in that peculiarity of Hebrew poetry by which the sense of one line or couplet so frequently corresponds with that of the other. Thus: -
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness
As a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.The vision of Isaiah - It seems doubtful whether this title belongs to the whole book, or only to the prophecy contained in this chapter. The former part of the title seems properly to belong to this particular prophecy; the latter part, which enumerates the kings of Judah under whom Isaiah exercised his prophetical office, seems to extend it to the whole collection of prophecies delivered in the course of his ministry. Vitringa - to whom the world is greatly indebted for his learned labors on this prophet and to whom we should have owed much more if he had not so totally devoted himself to Masoretic authority - has, I think, very judiciously resolved this doubt. He supposes that the former part of the title was originally prefixed to this single prophecy; and that, when the collection of all Isaiah's prophecies was made, the enumeration of the kings of Judah was added, to make it at the same time a proper title to the whole book. As such it is plainly taken in 2 Chronicles 32:32, where the book of Isaiah is cited by this title: "The vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz."
The prophecy contained in this first chapter stands single and unconnected, making an entire piece of itself. It contains a severe remonstrance against the corruptions prevailing among the Jews of that time, powerful exhortations to repentance, grievous threatenings to the impenitent, and gracious promises of better times, when the nation shall have been reformed by the just judgments of God. The expression, upon the whole, is clear; the connection of the several parts easy; and in regard to the images, sentiments, and style, it gives a beautiful example of the prophet's elegant manner of writing; though perhaps it may not be equal in these respects to many of the following prophecies.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.Hear, O heavens "Hear, O ye heavens" - God is introduced as entering into a public action, or pleading, before the whole world, against his disobedient people. The prophet, as herald or officer to proclaim the summons to the court, calls upon all created beings, celestial and terrestrial, to attend and bear witness to the truth of his plea and the justice of his cause. The same scene is more fully displayed in the noble exordium of Psalm 1:1-6, where God summons all mankind, from east to west, to be present to hear his appeal; and the solemnity is held on Sion, where he is attended with the same terrible pomp that accompanied him on Mount Sinai: -
"A consuming fire goes before him
And round him rages a violent tempest:
He calleth the heavens from above.
And the earth, that he may contend in judgment with his people."
The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.The ox knoweth - An amplification of the gross insensibility of the disobedient Jews, by comparing them with the most heavy and stupid of all animals, yet not so insensible as they. Bochart has well illustrated the comparison, and shown the peculiar force of it. "He sets them lower than the beasts, and even than the most stupid of all beasts, for there is scarcely any more so than the ox and the ass. Yet these acknowledge their master; they know the manger of their lord; by whom they are fed, not for their own, but for his good; neither are they looked upon as children, but as beasts of burden; neither are they advanced to honors, but oppressed with great and daily labors. While the Israelites, chosen by the mere favor of God, adopted as sons, promoted to the highest dignity, yet acknowledged not their Lord and their God; but despised his commandments, though in the highest degree equitable and just." Hieroz. i., Colossians 409.
Jeremiah's comparison to the same purpose is equally elegant, but has not so much spirit and severity as this of Isaiah.
"Even the stork in the heavens knoweth her season;
And the turtle, and the swallow, and the crane, observe the time of their coming:
But my people doth not know the judgment of Jehovah.
Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.Ah sinful nation "Degenerate" - Five MSS., one of them ancient, read משחתים moschathim, without the first י yod, in hophal corrupted, not corrupters. See the same word in the same form, and in the same sense, Proverbs 25:26.
Are corrupters "Are estranged" - Thirty-two MSS., five ancient, and two editions, read נזורו nazoru; which reading determines the word to be from the root זור zur, to alienate, not from נזר nazar, to separate; so Kimchi understands it. See also Annotat. in Noldium, 68.
They are gone away backward "They have turned their backs upon him" - So Kimchi explains it:" they have turned unto him the back and not the face." See Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 7:24. I have been forced to render this line paraphrastically; as the verbal translation, "they are estranged backward," would have been unintelligible.
Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.Why should ye be stricken any more "On what part," etc.? - The Vulgate renders על מה al meh, super quo, (see Job 38:6; 2 Chronicles 32:10), upon what part. And so Abendana on Sal. Den Melech: "There are some who explain it thus: Upon what limb shall you be smitten, if you add defection? for already for your sins have you been smitten upon all of them; so that there is not to be found in you a whole limb on which you can be smitten." Which agrees with what follows: "From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it:" and the sentiment and image is exactly the same with that of Ovid, Pont. 2:7, 42: -
Vix habet in nobis jam nova plaga locum.
There is no place on you for a new stripe. Or that still more expressive line of Euripides; the great force and effect of which Longinus ascribes to its close and compressed structure, analogous to the sense which it expresses: -
́γεμω κακων δη· κ' ουκετ' εσθ' ὁπη τιθῃ.
I am full of miseries: there's no room for more.
Herc. Fur. 1245, Long. sec. 40.
"On what part will ye strike again? will ye add correction?" This is addressed to the instruments of God's vengeance; those that inflicted the punishment, who or whatsoever they were. Ad verbum certae personae intelligendae sunt, quibus ista actio quae per verbum exprimitur competit; "The words are addressed to the persons who were the agents employed in the work expressed by the original word," as Glassius says in a similar case, Philippians Sacr. 1:3, 22. See Isaiah 7:4.
As from ידע yada, דעה deah, knowledge; from יעץ yaats, עצה etsah, counsel; from ישן yeshan, שנה shenah, sleep, etc.; so from יסר yasar is regularly derived סרה sarah, correction.
The whole head is sick - The king and the priests are equally gone away from truth and righteousness. Or, The state is oppressed by its enemies, and the Church corrupted in its rulers and in its members.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.They have not been closed, etc. "It hath not been pressed," etc. - The pharmaceutical art in the East consists chiefly in external applications: accordingly the prophet's images in this place are all taken from surgery. Sir John Chardin, in his note on Proverbs 3:8, "It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones," observes that "the comparison is taken from the plasters, ointments, oils, and frictions, which are made use of in the East upon the belly and stomach in most maladies. Being ignorant in the villages of the art of making decoctions and potions, and of the proper doses of such things, they generally make use of external medicines." - Harmer's Observations on Scripture, vol. 2 p. And in surgery their materia medica is extremely simple, oil making the principal part of it. "In India," says Tavernier, "they have a certain preparation of oil and melted grease, which they commonly use for the healing of wounds." Voyage Ind. So the good Samaritan poured oil and wine on the wounds of the distressed Jew: wine, cleansing and somewhat astringent, proper for a fresh wound; oil, mollifying and healing, Luke 10:34. Kimchi has a judicious remark here: "When various medicines are applied, and no healing takes place, that disorder is considered as coming immediately from God."
Of the three verbs in this sentence, one is in the singular number in the text; another is singular in two MSS., (one of them ancient), חבשה chubbeshah; and the Syriac and Vulgate render all of them in the singular number.
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.Your country is desolate - The description of the ruined and desolate state of the country in these verses does not suit with any part of the prosperous times of Uzziah and Jotham. It very well agrees with the time of Ahaz, when Judea was ravaged by the joint invasion of the Israelites and Syrians, and by the incursions of the Philistines and Edomites. The date of this prophecy is therefore generally fixed to the time of Ahaz. But on the other hand it may be considered whether those instances of idolatry which are urged in Isaiah 1:29 - the worshipping in groves and gardens - having been at all times too commonly practiced, can be supposed to be the only ones which the prophet would insist upon in the time of Ahaz; who spread the grossest idolatry through the whole country, and introduced it even into the temple; and, to complete his abominations, made his son pass through the fire to Molech. It is said, 2 Kings 15:37, that in Jotham's time "the Lord began to send against Judah Rezin - and Pekah." If we may suppose any invasion from that quarter to have been actually made at the latter end of Jotham's reign, I should choose to refer this prophecy to that time.
And your cities are burned. - Nineteen of Dr. Kennicott's MSS. and twenty-two of De Rossi's, some of my own, with the Syriac and Arabic, add the conjunction which makes the hemistich more complete.
At the end of the verse, זרים zarim. This reading, though confirmed by all the ancient versions, gives us no good sense; for "your land is devoured by strangers; and is desolate, as if overthrown by strangers," is a mere tautology, or, what is as bad, an identical comparison. Aben Ezra thought that the word in its present form might be taken for the same with זרם zerem, an inundation: Schultens is of the same opinion; (see Taylor's Concord.); and Schindler in his Lexicon explains it in the same manner: and so, says Zimchi, some explain it. Abendana endeavors to reconcile it to grammatical analogy in the following manner: "זרים zarim is the same with זרם zerem; that is, as overthrown by an inundation of waters: and these two words have the same analogy as קדם kedem and קדים kadim. Or it may be a concrete of the same form with שכיר shechir; and the meaning will be: as overthrown by rain pouring down violently, and causing a flood." On Sal. ben Melech, in loc. But I rather suppose the true reading to be זרם zerem, and have translated it accordingly: the word זרים zerim, in the line above, seems to have caught the transcriber's eye, and to have led him into this mistake. But this conjecture of the learned prelate is not confirmed by any MS. yet discovered.
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.As a cottage in a vineyard "As a shed in a vineyard" - A little temporary hut covered with boughs, straw, turf, or the like materials, for a shelter from the heat by day, and the cold and dews by night, for the watchman that kept the garden or vineyard during the short season the fruit was ripening, (see Job 27:18), and presently removed when it had served that purpose. See Harmer's Observ. 1:454. They were probably obliged to have such a constant watch to defend the fruit from the jackals. "The jackal," (chical of the Turks), says Hasselquist, (Travels, p. 227), "is a species of mustela which is very common in Palestine, especially during the vintage; and often destroys whole vineyards, and gardens of cucumbers." "There is also plenty of the canis vulpes, the fox, near the convent of St. John in the desert, about vintage time; for they destroy all the vines unless they are strictly watched." Ibid. p. 184. See Sol 2:15.
Fruits of the gourd kind, melons, watermelons, cucumbers, etc., are much used and in great request in the Levant, on account of their cooling quality. The Israelites in the wilderness regretted the loss of the cucumbers and melons among the other good things of Egypt, Numbers 11:5. In Egypt the season of watermelons, which are most in request, and which the common people then chiefly live upon, lasts but three weeks. See Hasselquist, p. 256. Tavernier makes it of longer continuance:
L'on y void de grands carreaux de melons et de concombres, mais beaucoup plus de derniers, dont les Levantins font leur delices. Le plus souvent, ils les mangent sans les peter, apres quoi ils vont boire une verre d'eau. Dans toute l'Asie c'est la nourriture ordinaire du petit peuple pendant trois ou quatre mois; toute la famine en vit, et quand un enfant demand a manger, au lieu qu'en France ou aillieurs nous luy donnerions du pain, dans le Levant on luy presente un concombre, qu'il mange cru comme on le vient de cueillir. Les concombres dans le Levant ont une bonte particuliere; et quoiqu' on les mange crus, ils ne font jamais de mal;
"There are to be seen great beds of melons and cucumbers, but a greater number of the latter, of which the Levantines are particularly fond. In general they eat them without taking off the rind, after which they drink a glass of water. In every part of Asia this is the aliment of the common people for three or four months; the whole family live on them; and when a child asks something to eat, instead of giving it a piece of bread, as is done in France and other countries, they present it with a cucumber, which it eats raw, as gathered. Cucumbers in the Levant are peculiarly excellent; and although eaten raw, they are seldom injurious." Tavernier, Relat. du Serrail, cap. xix.
As a lodge, etc. - That is, after the fruit was gathered; the lodge being then permitted to fall into decay. Such was the desolate, ruined state of the city.
So the ὡς πολις πολιορκουμενη; Septuagint: see also the Vulgate.
Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.The Lord of hosts "Jehovah God of hosts" - As this title of God, יהוה צבאות Yehovah tsebaoth, "Jehovah of hosts, occurs here for the first time, I think it proper to note, that I translate it always, as in this place, "Jehovah God of hosts;" taking it as an elliptical expression for יהוה אלהי צבאות Yehovah Elohey tsebaoth. This title imports that Jehovah is the God or Lord of hosts or armies; as he is the Creator and Supreme Governor of all beings in heaven and earth, and disposeth and ruleth them all in their several orders and stations; the almighty, universal Lord.
We should have been as Sodom - As completely and finally ruined as that and the cities of the plain were, no vestige of which remains at this day.
Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.Ye rulers of Sodom "Ye princes of Sodom" - The incidental mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in the preceding verse suggested to the prophet this spirited address to the rulers and inhabitants of Jerusalem, under the character of princes of Sodom and people of Gomorrah. Two examples of a sort of elegant turn of the like kind may be observed in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Romans 15:4, Romans 15:5, Romans 15:12, Romans 15:13. See Locke on the place; and see Isaiah 1:29, Isaiah 1:30, of this chapter, which gives another example of the same.
And - like unto Gomorrah. - The ו vau is added by thirty-one of Kennicott's MSS., twenty-nine of De Rossi's and one, very ancient, of my own. See note on Isaiah 1:6 (note).
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.To what purpose, etc. "What have I to do" - The prophet Amos has expressed the same sentiments with great elegance: -
I hate, I despise your feasts;
And I will not delight in the odour of your solemnities:
Though ye offer unto me burnt-offerings
And your meat-offerings, I will not accept:
Neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
And the melody of your viols I will not hear.
But let judgment roll down like waters;
And righteousness like a mighty stream.
When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?When ye come to appear - Instead of לראות leraoth, to appear, one MS. has לראות liroth, to see. See De Rossi. The appearing before God here refers chiefly to the three solemn annual festivals. See Exodus 23:14.
Tread my courts (no more) - So the Septuagint divide the sentence, joining the end of this verse to the beginning of the next: Πατειν την αυλην μου, ου προσθησεσθε; "To tread my court ye shall not add - ye shall not be again accepted in worship."
Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.The new moons and Sabbaths "The fast and the day of restraint" - און ועצרה aven vaatsarah. These words are rendered in many different manners by different interpreters, to a good and probable sense by all; but I think by none in such a sense as can arise from the phrase itself, agreeably to the idiom of the Hebrew language. Instead of און aven, the Septuagint manifestly read צום tsom, νηστειαν, "the fast." This Houbigant has adopted. The prophet could not well have omitted the fast in the enumeration of their solemnities, nor the abuse of it among the instances of their hypocrisy, which he has treated at large with such force and elegance in his fifty-eighth chapter. Observe, also, that the prophet Joel, (Joel 1:14, and Joel 2:15), twice joins together the fast and the day of restraint: -
עצרה קראו צום קדשו atsarah kiru tsom kaddeshu
"Sanctify a fast; proclaim a day of restraint:"
which shows how properly they are here joined together. עצרה atsarah, "the restraint," is rendered, both here and in other places of our English translation, "the solemn assembly." Certain holy days ordained by the law were distinguished by a particular charge that "no servile work should be done therein;" Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Deuteronomy 16:8. This circumstance clearly explains the reason of the name, the restraint, or the day of restraint, given to those days.
If I could approve of any translation of these two words which I have met with, it should be that of the Spanish version of the Old Testament, made for the use of the Spanish Jews: Tortura y detenimento, "it is a pain and a constraint unto me." But I still think that the reading of the Septuagint is more probably the truth.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.When ye spread - The Syriac, Septuagint, and a MS., read בפרשכם beparshecem, without the conjunction ו vau.
Your hands "For your hands" - Αἱ γαρ χειρες - Sept. Manus enim vestrae-Vulg. They seem to have read כי ידיכם ki yedeychem.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;Wash you - Referring to the preceding verse, "your hands are full of blood;" and alluding to the legal washing commanded on several occasions. See Leviticus 14:8, Leviticus 14:9, Leviticus 14:47.
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.Relieve the oppressed "Amend that which is corrupted" - אשרו חמוץ asheru chamots. In rendering this obscure phrase I follow Bochart, (Hieroz. Part i., lib. ii., cap. 7), though I am not perfectly satisfied with this explication of it.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.Though your sins be as scarlet - שני shani, "scarlet or crimson," dibaphum, twice dipped, or double dyed; from שנה shanah, iterare, to double, or to do a thing twice. This derivation seems much more probable than that which Salmasius prefers from שנן shanan, acuere, to whet, from the sharpness and strength of the color, οξυφοινικον; תלע tela, the same; properly the worm, vermiculus, (from whence vermeil), for this color was produced from a worm or insect which grew in a coccus or excrescence of a shrub of the ilex kind, (see Plin. Nat. Hist. 16:8), like the cochineal worm in the opuntia of America. See Ulloa's Voyage book v., chap. ii., note to page 342. There is a shrub of this kind that grows in Provence and Languedoc, and produces the like insect, called the kermes oak, (see Miller, Dict. Quercus), from kermez, the Arabic word for this color, whence our word crimson is derived.
"Neque amissos colores
Lana refert medicata fuco,"
says the poet, applying the same image to a different purpose. To discharge these strong colors is impossible to human art or power; but to the grace and power of God all things, even much more difficult are possible and easy. Some copies have כשנים keshanim, "like crimson garments."
Though they be red, etc. - But the conjunction ו vau is added by twenty-one of Kennicott's, and by forty-two of De Rossi's MSS., by some early editions, with the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic. It makes a fuller and more emphatic sense. "And though they be red as crimson," etc.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:Ye shall eat the good of the land - Referring to Isaiah 1:7 : it shall not be "devoured by strangers."
But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.Ye shall be devoured with the sword "Ye shall be food for the sword" - The Septuagint and Vulgate read תאכלכם tochalchem, "the sword shall devour you;" which is of much more easy construction than the present reading of the text.
The Chaldee seems to read בחרב אויב תאכלו bechereb oyeb teachelu, "ye shall be consumed by the sword of the enemy." The Syriac also reads בחרב beehereb and renders the verb passively. And the rhythmus seems to require this addition. - Dr. Jubb.
How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.Become a harlot - See before, the Discourse on the Prophetic Style; and see Lowth's Comment on the place, and De Sacr. Poes. Hebr. Prael. xxxi.
Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:Wine mixed with water - An image used for the adulteration of wines, with more propriety than may at first appear, if what Thevenot says of the people of the Levant of late times were true of them formerly. He says, "They never mingle water with their wine to drink; but drink by itself what water they think proper for abating the strength of the wine." "Lorsque les Persans boivent du vin, ils le prennent tout pur, a la facon des Levantins, qui ne le melent jamais avec de l'eua; mais en beuvant du vin, de temps en temps ils prennent un pot d'eau, et en boivent de grand traits." Voyage, part ii., 54 ii., chap. 10. "Ils (les Turcs) n'y meslent jamais d'eau, et se moquent des Chretiens qui en mettent, ce qui leur semble tout a fait ridicule." Ibid. part i., chap. 24. "The Turks never mingle water with their wine, and laugh at the Christians for doing it, which they consider altogether ridiculous."
It is remarkable that whereas the Greeks and Latins by mixed wine always understood wine diluted and lowered with water, the Hebrews on the contrary generally mean by it wine made stronger and more inebriating by the addition of higher and more powerful ingredients, such as honey, spices, defrutum, (or wine inspissated by boiling it down to two-thirds or one-half of the quantity), myrrh, mandragora, opiates, and other strong drugs. Such were the exhilarating, or rather stupefying, ingredients which Helen mixed in the bowl together with the wine for her guests oppressed with grief to raise their spirits, the composition of which she had learned in Egypt: -
Αυτικ' αρ' εις οινον βαλε φαρμακον, ενθεν επινον,
Νηπενθες τ' αχολον τε, κακων επιληθον ἁπαντων.
Homer. Odyss. lib. iv., ver. 220.
"Meanwhile, with genial joy to warm the soul,
Bright Helen mix'd a mirth-inspiring bowl;
Temper'd with drugs of sovereign use, to assuage
The boiling bosom of tumultuous rage:
Charm'd with that virtuous draught, the exalted mind
All sense of wo delivers to the wind."
Such was the "spiced wine and the juice of pomegranates," mentioned Sol 8:2. And how much the Eastern people to this day deal in artificial liquors of prodigious strength, the use of wine being forbidden, may be seen in a curious chapter of Kempfer upon that subject. Amoen. Exot. Fasc. iii., Obs. 15.
Thus the drunkard is properly described, Proverbs 23:30, as one "that seeketh mixed wine," and "is mighty to mingle strong drink," Isaiah 5:22. And hence the poet took that highly poetical and sublime image of the cup of God's wrath, called by Isaiah 51:17, the "cup of trembling," causing intoxication and stupefaction, (see Chappelow's note on Hariri, p. 33), containing, as St. John expresses in Greek the Hebrew idea with the utmost precision, though with a seeming contradiction in terms, κεκερασμενον ακρατον, merum mixtum, pure wine made yet stronger by a mixture of powerful ingredients; Revelation 14:10. "In the hand of Jehovah," saith the psalmist, Psalm 75:8, "there is a cup, and the wine is turbid: it is full of a mixed liquor, and he poureth out of it," or rather, "he poureth it out of one vessel into another," to mix it perfectly, according to the reading expressed by the ancient versions, ויגר מזה אל זה vaiyagger mizzeh al zeh, and he pours it from this to that, "verily the dregs thereof," the thickest sediment of the strong ingredients mingled with it, "all the ungodly of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them."
R. D. Kimchi says, "The current coin was adulterated with brass, tin, and other metals, and yet was circulated as good money. The wine also was adulterated with water in the taverns, and sold notwithstanding for pure wine."
Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.Companions of thieves "Associates" - The Septuagint, Vulgate, and four MSS., read חברי chabrey without the conjunction ו vau.
Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:Ah, I will ease me "Aha! I will be eased" - Anger, arising from a sense of injury and affront, especially from those who, from every consideration of duty and gratitude, ought to have behaved far otherwise, is an uneasy and painful sensation: and revenge, executed to the full on the offenders, removes that uneasiness, and consequently is pleasing and quieting, at least for the present. Ezekiel, Ezekiel 5:13, introduces God expressing himself in the same manner: -
"And mine anger shall be fully accomplished;
And I will make my fury rest upon them;
And I will give myself ease."
This is a strong instance of the metaphor called anthropopathia, by which, throughout the Scriptures, as well the historical as the poetical parts, the sentiments sensations, and affections, the bodily faculties qualities, and members, of men, and even of brute animals, are attributed to God, and that with the utmost liberty and latitude of application. The foundation of this is obvious; it arises from necessity; we have no idea of the natural attributes of God, of his pure essence, of his manner of existence, of his manner of acting: when therefore we would treat on these subjects, we find ourselves forced to express them by sensible images. But necessity leads to beauty; this is true of metaphor in general, and in particular of this kind of metaphor, which is used with great elegance and sublimity in the sacred poetry; and what is very remarkable, in the grossest instances of the application of it, it is generally the most striking and the most sublime. The reason seems to be this: when the images are taken from the superior faculties of the human nature, from the purer and more generous affections, and applied to God, we are apt to acquiesce in the notion; we overlook the metaphor, and take it as a proper attribute; but when the idea is gross and offensive as in this passage of Isaiah, where the impatience of anger and the pleasure of revenge is attributed to God, we are immediately shocked at the application; the impropriety strikes us at once, and the mind, casting about for something in the Divine nature analogous to the image, lays hold on some great, obscure, vague idea, which she endeavors to comprehend, and is lost in immensity and astonishment. See De Sacr. Poesi. Hebr. Praeel. 16 sub. fin., where this matter is treated and illustrated by examples.
And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:I will turn my hand upon thee - So the common version; and this seems to be a metaphor taken from the custom of those who, when the metal is melted, strike off the scoriae with their hand previously to its being poured out into the mould. I have seen this done with the naked hand, and no injury whatever sustained.
Purge away thy dross "In the furnace" - The text has כבר cabbor, which some render "as with soap;" as if it were the same with כברית keborith; so Kimchi; but soap can have nothing to do with the purifying of metals. Others, "according to purity," or "purely," as our version. Le Clerc conjectured that the true reading is ככור kechur, "as in the furnace;" see Ezekiel 22:18, Ezekiel 22:20. Dr. Durell proposes only a transposition of letters בכר to the same sense; and so likewise Archbishop Secker. That this is the true reading is highly probable.
And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellers as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.I will restore - "This," says Kimchi, "shall be in the days of the Messiah, in which all the wicked shall cease, and the remnant of Israel shall neither do iniquity, nor speak lies." What a change must this be among Jews!
Afterward "And after this" - The Septuagint, Syriac, Chaldee, and eighteen MSS., and one of my own, very ancient, add the conjunction ו vau, And.
Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.With judgment "In judgment" - By the exercise of God's strict justice in destroying the obdurate, (see Isaiah 1:28), and delivering the penitent in righteousness; by the truth and faithfulness of God in performing his promises."
And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.
For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.For they shall be ashamed of the oaks "For ye shall be ashamed of the ilexes" - Sacred groves were a very ancient and favorite appendage of idolatry. They were furnished with the temple of the god to whom they were dedicated, with altars, images, and every thing necessary for performing the various rites of worship offered there; and were the scenes of many impure ceremonies, and of much abominable superstition. They made a principal part of the religion of the old inhabitants of Canaan; and the Israelites were commanded to destroy their groves, among other monuments of their false worship. The Israelites themselves became afterwards very much addicted to this species of idolatry.
"When I had brought them into the land,
Which I swore that I would give unto them;
Then they saw every high hill and every thick tree;
And there they slew their victims;
And there they presented the provocation of their offerings;
And there they placed their sweet savor;
And there they poured out their libations."
For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.Whose leaf "Whose leaves" - Twenty-six of Kennicott's, twenty-four of De Rossi's, one ancient, of my own, and seven editions, read אליה aleyha, in its full and regular form. This is worth remarking, as it accounts for a great number of anomalies of the like kind, which want only the same authority to rectify them.
As a garden that hath no water "A garden wherein is no water" - In the hotter parts of the Eastern countries, a constant supply of water is so absolutely necessary for the cultivation and even for the preservation and existence of a garden, that should it want water but for a few days, every thing in it would be burnt up with the heat, and totally destroyed. There is therefore no garden whatever in those countries but what has such a certain supply, either from some neighboring river, or from a reservoir of water collected from springs, or filled with rain water in the proper season, in sufficient quantity to afford ample provision for the rest of the year.
Moses, having described the habitation of man newly created as a garden planted with every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food, adds, as a circumstance necessary to complete the idea of a garden, that it was well supplied with water, "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden;" Genesis 2:10 : see also Genesis 13:10.
That the reader may have a clear notion of this matter, it will be necessary to give some account of the management of their gardens in this respect.
"Damascus," says Maundrell, p. 122, "is encompassed with gardens, extending no less, recording to common estimation, than thirty miles round; which makes it look like a city in a vast wood. The gardens are thick set with fruit trees of all kinds, kept fresh and verdant by the waters of the Barrady, (the Chrysorrhoas of the ancients), which supply both the gardens and city in great abundance. This river, as soon as it issues out from between the cleft of the mountain before mentioned into the plain, is immediately divided into three streams; of which the middlemost and biggest runs directly to Damascus, and is distributed to all the cisterns and fountains of the city. The other two (which I take to be the work of art) are drawn round, one to the right hand, and the other to the left, on the borders of the gardens, into which they are let as they pass, by little currents, and so dispersed all over the vast wood, insomuch that there is not a garden but has a fine quick stream running through it. The Barrady is almost wholly drunk up by the city and gardens. What small part of it escapes is united, as I was informed, in one channel again on the southeast side of the city; and, after about three or four hours' course finally loses itself in a bog there, without ever arriving at the sea." This was likewise the case in former times, as Strabo, lib. xvi., Pliny, lib. 5:18, testify; who say, "that this river was expended in canals, and drunk up by watering the place."
"The best sight," says the same Maundrell, p. 39, "that the palace of the emir of Beroot, anciently Berytus, affords, and the worthiest to be remembered, is the orange garden. It contains a large quadrangular plat of ground, divided into sixteen lesser squares, four in a row, with walks between them. The walks are shaded with orange trees of a large spreading size. Every one of these sixteen lesser squares in the garden was bordered with stone; and in the stone work were troughs, very artificially contrived, for conveying the water all over the garden; there being little outlets cut at every tree for the stream as it passed by to flow out and water it." The royal gardens at Ispahan are watered just in the same manner, according to Kempfer's description, Amoen. Exot., p. 193.
This gives us a clear idea of the פלגי מים palgey mayim, mentioned in the first Psalm, and other places of Scripture, "the divisions of waiters," the waters distributed in artificial canals; for so the phrase properly signifies. The prophet Jeremith, chap. 17:8, has imitated, and elegantly amplified, the passage of the psalmist above referred to: -
"He shall be like a tree planted by the water side,
And which sendeth forth her roots to the aqueduct.
She shall not fear, when the heat cometh;
But her leaf shall be green;
And in the year of drought she shall not be anxious,
Neither shall she cease from bearing fruit."
From this image the son of Sirach, Ecclesiasticus 24:30, 31, has most beautifully illustrated the influence and the increase of religious wisdom in a well prepared heart.
"I also come forth as a canal from a river,
And as a conduit flowing into a paradise.
I said, I will water my garden,
And I will abundantly moisten my border:
And, lo! my canal became a river,
And my river became a sea."
This gives us the true meaning of the following elegant proverb, Proverbs 21:1 : -
"The heart of the king is like the canals of waters in the hand of Jehovah; Whithersoever it pleaseth him, he inclineth it."
The direction of it is in the hand of Jehovah, as the distribution of the water of the reservoir through the garden by different canals is at the will of the gardener.
"Et, cum exustus ager morientibus aestuat herbis,
Ecce supercilio clivosi tramitis undam
Elicit: illa cadens raucum per levia murmur
Saxa ciet, scatebrisque arentia temperat arva."
Virg., Georg. 1:107.
"Then, when the fiery suns too fiercely play,
And shrivelled herbs on withering stems decay,
The wary ploughman on the mountain's brow
Undams his watery stores; huge torrents flow;
And, rattling down the rocks, large moisture yield,
Tempering the thirsty fever of the field."
"I made me gardens, and paradises;
And I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.
I made me pools of water,
To water with them the grove flourishing with trees."
Maundrell, p. 88, has given a description of the remains, as they are said to be, of these very pools made by Solomon, for the reception and preservation of the waters of a spring, rising at a little distance from them; which will give us a perfect notion of the contrivance and design of such reservoirs.
"As for the pools, they are three in number, lying in a row above each other; being so disposed that the waters of the uppermost may descend into the second, and those of the second into the third. Their figure is quadrangular, the breadth is the same in all, amounting to about ninety paces. In their length there is some difference between them; the first being about one hundred and sixty paces long, the second, two hundred, and the third, two hundred and twenty. They are all lined with wall and plastered; and contain a great depth of water."
The immense works which were made by the ancient kings of Egypt for recovering the waters of the Nile, when it overflowed, for such uses, are well known. But there never was a more stupendous work of this kind than the reservoir of Saba, or Merab, in Arabia Felix. According to the tradition of the country, it was the work of Balkis, that queen of Sheba who visited Solomon. It was a vast lake formed by the collection of the waters of a torrent in a valley, where, at a narrow pass between two mountains, a very high mole or dam was built. The water of the lake so formed had near twenty fathoms depth; and there were three sluices at different heights, by which, at whatever height the lake stood, the plain below might be watered. By conduits and canals from these sluices the water was constantly distributed in due proportion to the several lands; so that the whole country for many miles became a perfect paradise. The city of Saba, or Merab, was situated immediately below the great dam; a great flood came, and raised the lake above its usual height; the dam gave way in the middle of the night; the waters burst forth at once, and overwhelmed the whole city, with the neighboring towns and people. The remains of eight tribes were forced to abandon their dwellings, and the beautiful valley became a morass and a desert. This fatal catastrophe happened long before the time of Mohammed, who mentions it in the Koran, chap. 34: ver. 15. See also Sale, Prelim. s. 1 Peter 10, and Michaelis, Quest. aux Voyag. Daniel No. 94. Niebuhr, Descrip. de l'Arabie. p. 240. - L.
And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.