Isaiah 14
Clarke's Commentary
Deliverance of Israel from captivity, which shall follow the downfall of the great Babylonish empire, Isaiah 14:1, Isaiah 14:2. Triumphant ode or song of the children of Jacob, for the signal manifestation of Divine vengeance against their oppressors, vv. 3-23. Prophecy against the Assyrians, Isaiah 14:24, Isaiah 14:25. Certainty of the prophecy, and immutability of the Divine counsels, Isaiah 14:26, Isaiah 14:27. Palestine severely threatened, Isaiah 14:28-31. God shall establish Zion in these troublous times, Isaiah 14:32.

For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.
And will yet choose Israel - That is, will still regard Israel as his chosen people; however he may seem to desert them, by giving them up to their enemies, and scattering them among the nations. Judah is sometimes called Israel; see Ezekiel 13:16; Malachi 1:1; Malachi 2:11 : but the name of Jacob and of Israel, used apparently with design in this place, each of which names includes the twelve tribes, and the other circumstances mentioned in this and the next verse, which did not in any complete sense accompany the return from the captivity of Babylon, seem to intimate that this whole prophecy extends its views beyond that event.

And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.
For servants and handmaids - For thrallis and thrallesses. - Old Bible. Male and female slaves.

And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve,
In the day "In that day" - ביום ההוא bayom hahu. The word ההוא hahu is added in two MSS. of Kennicott's, and was in the copies from which the Septuagint and Vulgate translated: εν τῃ ἡμερᾳ εκεινῃ, in die illa, (ᾑ αναπαυσει, MS. Pachom. adding ה), in that day. This is a matter of no great consequence: however, it restores the text to the common form, almost constantly used on such occasions; and is one among many instances of a word apparently lost out of the printed copies.

That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!
This proverb "This parable" - משל mashal, I take this to be the general name for poetic style among the Hebrews, including every sort of it, as ranging under one or other, or all of the characters, of sententious, figurative, and sublime; which are all contained in the original notion, or in the use and application of the word mashal. Parables or proverbs, such as those of Solomon, are always expressed in short pointed sentences; frequently figurative, being formed on some comparison; generally forcible and authoritative, both in the matter and the form. And such in general is the style of the Hebrew poetry. The verb mashal signifies to rule; to exercise authority; to make equal; to compare one thing with another; to utter parables, or acute, weighty, and powerful speeches, in the form and manner of parables, though not properly such. Thus Balaam's first prophecy, (Numbers 23:7-10), is called his mashal; though it has hardly any thing figurative in it: but it is beautifully sententious, and, from the very form and manner of it, has great spirit, force, and energy. Thus Job's last speeches, in answer to his three friends, chap. 27-31, are called mashals; from no one particular character, which discriminates them from the rest of the poem, but from the sublime, the figurative, the sententious manner which equally prevails through the whole poem, and makes it one of the first and most eminent examples extant of the truly great and beautiful in poetic style. See the note on Proverbs 1:1 (note).

The Septuagint in this place render the word by θρηνος, a lamentation. They plainly consider the speech here introduced as a piece of poetry, and of that species of poetry which we call the elegiac; either from the subject, it being a poem on the fall and death of the king of Babylon, or from the form of the composition, which is of the longer sort of Hebrew verse, in which the Lamentations of Jeremiah, called by the Septuagint Θρηνοι, are written.

The golden city ceased - מדהבה madhebah, which is here translated golden city, is a Chaldee word. Probably it means that golden coin or ingot which was given to the Babylonians by way of tribute. So the word is understood by the Vulgate, where it is rendered tributum; and by Montanus, who translates it aurea pensio, the golden pension. Kimchi seems to have understood the word in the same sense. De Rossi translates it auri dives, rich in gold, or auri exactrix, the exactor of gold; the same as the exactor of tribute.

The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.
He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.
The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.
Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.
Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.
Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee - That is, Nebuchadnezzar. "It (hell) hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the earth; - the ghosts (rephaim) of all the mighty ones, or goats, (עתודי attudey), of the earth - all the oppressors of mankind." What a most terrible idea is here! Tyrannical kings who have oppressed and spoiled mankind, are here represented as enthroned in hell; and as taking a Satanic pleasure in seeing others of the same description enter those abodes of misery!

All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?
Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.
Cover thee "Thy covering" - Twenty-eight MSS. (ten ancient) of Kennicott's, thirty-nine of De Rossi's, twelve editions, with the Septuagint and Vulgate, read ומכסך umechassecha, in the singular number.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
O Lucifer, son of the morning - The Versions in general agree in this translation, and render הילל heilel as signifying Lucifer, Φωσφωρος, the morning star, whether Jupiter or Venus; as these are both bringers of the morning light, or morning stars, annually in their turn. And although the context speaks explicitly concerning Nebuchadnezzar, yet this has been, I know not why, applied to the chief of the fallen angels, who is most incongruously denominated Lucifer, (the bringer of light!) an epithet as common to him as those of Satan and Devil. That the Holy Spirit by his prophets should call this arch-enemy of God and man the light-bringer, would be strange indeed. But the truth is, the text speaks nothing at all concerning Satan nor his fall, nor the occasion of that fall, which many divines have with great confidence deduced from this text. O how necessary it is to understand the literal meaning of Scripture, that preposterous comments may be prevented! Besides, I doubt much whether our translation be correct. הילל heilel, which we translate Lucifer, comes from ילל yalal, yell, howl, or shriek, and should be translated, "Howl, son of the morning;" and so the Syriac has understood it; and for this meaning Michaelis contends: see his reasons in Parkhurst, under הלל halal.

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend into heaven - I will get the empire of the whole world. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God - above the Israelites, who are here termed the stars of God. So the Targum of Jonathan, and R. D. Kimchi. This chapter speaks not of the ambition and fall of Satan, but of the pride, arrogance, and fall of Nebuchadnezzar.

The mount of the congregation "The mount of the Divine Presence" - It appears plainly from Exodus 25:22, and Exodus 29:42, Exodus 29:43, where God appoints the place of meeting with Moses, and promises to meet with him before the ark to commune with him, and to speak unto him; and to meet the children of Israel at the door of the tabernacle; that the tabernacle, and afterwards the door of the tabernacle, and Mount Zion, (or Moriah, which is reckoned a part of Mount Zion), whereon it stood, was called the tabernacle, and the mount of convention or of appointment; not from the people's assembling there to perform the services of their religion, (which is what our translation expresses by calling it the tabernacle of the congregation), but because God appointed that for the place where he himself would meet with Moses, and commune with him, and would meet with the people. Therefore הר מועד har moed, the "mountain of the assembly," or אהל מועד ohel moed, the "tabernacle of the assembly," means the place appointed by God, where he would present himself; agreeably to which I have rendered it in this place, the mount of the Divine Presence.

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?
All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.
But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.
Like an abominable branch "Like the tree abominated" - That is, as an object of abomination and detestation; such as the tree is on which a malefactor has been hanged. "It is written," saith St. Paul, Galatians 3:13, "Cursed is every man that hangeth on a tree," from Deuteronomy 21:23. The Jews therefore held also as accursed and polluted the tree itself on which a malefactor had been executed, or on which he had been hanged after having been put to death by stoning. "Non suspendunt super arbore, quae radicibus solo adhaereat; sed super ligno eradicato, ut ne sit excisio molesta: nam lignum, super quo fuit aliquis suspensus, cum suspendioso sepelitur; ne maneat illi malum nomen, et dicant homines, Istud est lignum, in quo suspensus est ille, ὁ δεινα . Sic lapis, quo aliquis fuit lapidatus; et gladius, quo fuit occisus is qui est occisus; et sudarium sive mantile, quo fuit aliquis strangulates; omnia haec cum iis, qui perierunt, sepeliuntur." Maimonides, apud Casaub. in Baron. Exercitat. 16. An. 34, Numbers 134. "Cum itaque homo suspensu maximae esset abominationi - Judaei quoque prae caeteris abominabantur lignum quo fuerat suspensus, ita ut illud quoque terra tegerent, tanquam rem abominabilem. Unde interpres Chaldaeus haec verba transtulit כחט טמור kechat temir, sicut virgultum absconditum, sive sepultum." Kalinski, Vaticinta Observationibus Illustrata, p. 342.

"The Jews never hang any malefactor upon a tree that is growing in the earth, but upon a post fixed in the ground, that it might never be said, 'That is the tree on which such a one was hanged;' for custom required that the tree should be buried with the malefactor. In like manner the stone by which a criminal was stoned to death, or the sword by which he was beheaded, or the napkin or handkerchief by which he was strangled, should be buried with him in the same grave." "For as the hanged man was considered the greatest abomination, so the very post or wood on which he was hanged was deemed a most abominable thing, and therefore buried under the earth."

Agreeably to which Theodoret, Hist. Ecclesiastes 1:17, Ecclesiastes 1:18, in his account of the finding of the cross by Helena, says, "That the three crosses were buried in the earth near the place of our Lord's sepulcher." And this circumstance seems to confirm the relation of the discovery of the cross of Christ. The crosses were found where the custom required they should be buried.

The raiment of those that are slain "Clothed with the slain" - Thirty-five MSS., (ten ancient), and three editions, have the word fully written, לבוש lebush. It is not a noun, but the participle passive; thrown out among the common slain and covered with the dead bodies. So Ecclesiastes 1:11, the earth-worm is said to be his bedcovering. This reading is confirmed by two ancient MSS. in my own collection.

Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.
Because thou hast destroyed thy land, etc. "Because thou hast destroyed thy country; thou hast slain thy people" - Xenophon gives an instance of this king's wanton cruelty in killing the son of Gobrias, on no other provocation than that, in hunting, he struck a boar and a lion which the king had missed. Cyrop. 4:309.

Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.
For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.
I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.
I will sweep it with the besom of destruction "I will plunge it in the miry gulf of destruction" - I have here very nearly followed the Version of the Septuagint; the reasons for which see in the last note on De Poesi Hebr. Praelect, xxviii.

The besom of destruction, as our Version renders it. במטאטא bematate. This, says Kimchi, is a Chaldee word: and it is worthy of remark that the prophet, writing to the Chaldeans, uses several words peculiar to their own language to point out the nature of the Divine judgments, and the causes of them. See the note on Jeremiah 10:11 (note). Sixteen of Kennicott's MSS., and seventeen of De Rossi's, and one ancient of my own, have the word במטאטי bematatey, in the plural. "I will sweep her with the besoms of destruction."

The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:
That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.
I will break the Assyrian - upon my mountains "To crush the Assyrian - on my mountains" - The Assyrians and Babylonians are the same people, Herod. 1:199, 200. Babylon is reckoned the principal city in Assyria, ibid. 178. Strabo says the same thing, lib. 16 sub init. The circumstance of this judgment being to be executed on God's mountains is of importance; it may mean the destruction of Sennacherib's army near Jerusalem, and have a still farther view: compare Ezekiel 39:4; and see Lowth on this place of Isaiah.

This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.
For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.
In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden - Uzziah had subdued the Philistines, 2 Chronicles 26:6, 2 Chronicles 26:7; but, taking advantage of the weak reign of Ahaz, they invaded Judea, and took, and held in possession, some cities in the southern part of the kingdom. On the death of Ahaz, Isaiah delivers this prophecy, threatening them with the destruction that Hezekiah, his son, and great-grandson of Uzziah, should bring upon them: which he effected; for "he smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof," 2 Kings 18:8. Uzziah, therefore, must be meant by the rod that smote them, and by the serpent from whom should spring the flying fiery serpent, Isaiah 14:29, that is, Hezekiah, a much more terrible enemy than even Uzziah had been.

The Targum renders the twenty-ninth verse in a singular way. "For, from the sons of Jesse shall come forth the Messiah; and his works among you shall be as the flying serpent."

Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.
And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.
And the first-born of the poor, etc. - The Targum goes on applying all to the Messiah. "And the poor of the people shall he feed, and the humble shall dwell securely in his days: and he shall kill thy children with famine, and the remnant of thy people shall he slay."

I will kill "He will slay" - The Septuagint reads המית hemith, to the third person, ανελει; and so the Chaldee. The Vulgate remedies the confusion of persons in the present text, by reading both the verbs in the first person.

Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.
There shall come from the north a smoke "From the north cometh a smoke" - That is, a cloud of dust raised by the march of Hezekiah's army against Philistia; which lay to the south-west from Jerusalem. A great dust raised has, at a distance, the appearance of smoke: Fumantes pulvere campi; "The fields smoking with dust." - Virg. Aen. 11:908.

What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.
The messengers of the nation "The ambassadors of the nations" - The Septuagint read גוים goyim, εθνων, plural; and so the Chaldee, and one MS. The ambassadors of the neighboring nations, that send to congratulate Hezekiah on his success, which in his answer he will ascribe to the protection of God. See 2 Chronicles 32:23. Or, if גוי goi singular, the reading of the text, be preferred, the ambassadors sent by the Philistines to demand peace. - L.

The Lord hath founded Zion - Kimchi refers this to the state of Zion under Hezekiah, when the rest of the cities of Judea had been taken, and this only was left for a hope to the poor of God's people: and God so defended it that Rabshakeh could not prevail against it.

The true Church of God is a place of safety; for as all its members are devoted to God, and walk in his testimonies, so they are continually defended and supported by him. In the congregations of his people, God dispenses his light and salvation; hence his poor or humble ones expect in his ordinances the blessings they need.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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