Isaiah Expositor's Bible Commentary
Isaiah
Expositor's Bible Commentary
INTRODUCTION

As the following Exposition of the Book of Isaiah does not observe the canonical arrangement of the chapters, a short introduction is necessary upon the plan which has been adopted.

The size and the many obscurities of the Book of Isaiah have limited the common use of it in the English tongue to single conspicuous passages, the very brilliance of which has cast their context and original circumstance into deeper shade. The intensity of the gratitude with which men have seized upon the more evangelical passages of Isaiah, as well as the attention which apologists for Christianity have too partially paid to his intimations of the Messiah, has confirmed the neglect of the rest of the Book. But we might as well expect to receive an adequate conception of a great statesman’s policy from the epigrams and perorations of his speeches as to appreciate the message, which God has sent to the world through the Book of Isaiah, from a few lectures on isolated, and often dislocated, texts. No book of the Bible is less susceptible of treatment apart from the history out of which it sprang than the Book of Isaiah; and it may be added, that in the Old Testament at least there is none which, when set in its original circumstance and methodically considered as a whole, appeals with greater power to the modern conscience. Patiently to learn how these great prophecies were suggested by, and first met, the actual occasions of human life, is vividly to hear them speaking home to life still.

I have, therefore, designed an arrangement which embraces all the prophecies, but treats them in chronological order. I will endeavour to render their contents in terms which appeal to the modern conscience; but, in order to be successful, such an endeavour presupposes the exposition of them in relation to the history which gave them birth. In these volumes, therefore, narrative and historical exposition will take precedence of practical application.

Everyone knows that the Book of Isaiah breaks into two parts between chapters 39 and 40. Part 1 of this Exposition covers chapters 1-39. Part 2 will treat of chapters 40-56. Again, within chapters 1-39, another division is apparent. The most of these chapters evidently bear upon events within Isaiah’s own career, but some imply historical circumstances that did not arise till long after he had passed away. Of the five books into which I have divided Part I, the first four contain the prophecies relating to Isaiah’s time (740-701 B.C.), and the fifth the prophecies which refer to later events (chapters 13-14; 23; 24-27; 34; 35).

The prophecies, whose subjects fall within Isaiah’s times, I have taken in chronological order, with one exception. This exception is chapter 1, which, although it was published near the end of the prophet’s life, I treat of first, because, from its position as well as its character, it is evidently intended as a preface to the whole book. The difficulty of grouping the rest of Isaiah’s oracles and orations is great. The plan I have adopted is not perfect, but convenient. Isaiah’s prophesying was determined chiefly by four Assyrian invasions of Palestine: the first, in 734-732 B.C., by Tiglath-pileser II, while Ahaz was on the throne; the second by Salmanassar and Sargon in 725-720, during which Samaria fell in 721; the third by Sargon, 712-710; the fourth by Sennacherib in 701, which last three occurred while Hezekiah was king of Judah. But outside the Assyrian invasions there were three other cardinal dates in Isaiah’s life: 740, his call to be a prophet; 727, the death of Ahaz, his enemy, and the accession of his pupil, Hezekiah; and 705, the death of Sargon, for Sargon’s death led to the rebellion of the Syrian States, and it was this rebellion which brought on Sennacherib’s invasion. Taking all these dates into consideration, I have placed in Book I all the prophecies of Isaiah from his call in 740 to the death of Ahaz in 727; they lead up to and illustrate Tiglath-pileser’s invasion; they cover what I have ventured to call the prophet’s apprenticeship, during which the theatre of his vision was mainly the internal life of his people, but he gained also his first outlook upon the world beyond. Book II deals with the prophecies from the accession of Hezekiah in 727 to the death of Sargon in 705-a long period, but few prophecies, covering both Salmanassar’s and Sargon’s campaigns. Book III is filled with the prophecies from 705 to 702, a numerous group, called forth from Isaiah by the rebellion and political activity in Palestine consequent on Sargon’s death and preliminary to Sennacherib’s arrival. Book IV contains the prophecies which refer to Sennacherib’s actual invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem, in 701.

Of course, any chronological arrangement of Isaiah’s prophecies must be largely provisional. Only some of the chapters are fixed to dates past possibility of doubt. The Assyriology which has helped us with these must yield further results before the controversies can be settled that exist with regard to the rest. I have explained in the course of the Exposition my reasons for the order which I have followed, and need only say here that I am still more uncertain about the generally received dates of Isaiah 10:5 - Isaiah 11:1-16; Isaiah 17:12-14; Isaiah 32:1-20. The religious problems, however, were so much the same during the whole of Isaiah’s career that uncertainties of date, if they are confined to the limits of that career, make little difference to the exposition of the book.

Isaiah’s doctrines, being so closely connected with the life of his day, come up for statement at many points of the narrative, in which this Exposition chiefly consists. But here and there I have inserted chapters dealing summarily with more important topics, such as The World in Isaiah’s Day; The Messiah; Isaiah’s Power of Prediction, with its evidence on the character of Inspiration; and the question, Had Isaiah a Gospel for the Individual? A short index will guide the student to Isaiah’s teaching on other important points of theology and life, such as holiness, forgiveness, monotheism, immortality, the Holy Spirit. etc.

Treating Isaiah’s prophecies chronologically as I have done, I have followed a method which put me on the look-out for any traces of development that his doctrine might exhibit. I have recorded these as they occur, but it may be useful to collect them here. In chapters 2-4, we have the struggle of the apprentice prophet’s thoughts from the easy religious optimism of his generation, through unrelieved convictions of judgment for the whole people, to his final vision of the Divine salvation of a remnant. Again, chapter 7 following on chapters 2-6, proves that Isaiah’s belief in the Divine righteousness preceded, and was the parent of, his belief in the Divine sovereignty. Again, his successive pictures of the Messiah grow in contents, and become more spiritual. And again, he only gradually arrived at a clear view of the siege and deliverance of Jerusalem. One other fact of the same kind has impressed me since I wrote the exposition of chapter 1. I have there stated that it is plain that Isaiah’s conscience was perfect just because it consisted of two complementary parts: one of God the infinitely High, exalted in righteousness, far above the thoughts of His people, and the other of God the infinitely Near, concerned and jealous for all the practical details of their life. I ought to have added that Isaiah was more under the influence of the former in his earlier years, but that as he grew older and took a larger share in the politics of Judah it was the latter view of God to which he most frequently gave expression. Signs of a development like these may be fairly used to correct or support the evidence which Assyriology affords for determining the chronological order of the chapters.

But these signs of development are more valuable for the proof they give that the Book of Isaiah contains the experience and testimony of a real life: a life that learned and suffered and grew, and at last triumphed. There is not a single word about the prophet’s birth, or childhood, or fortune, or personal appearance, or even of his death. But between silence on his origin and silence on his end-and perhaps all the more impressively because of these clouds by which it is bounded-there shines the record of Isaiah’s spiritual life and of the unfaltering career which this sustained, - clear and whole, from his commission by God in the secret experience of his own heart to his vindication in God’s supreme tribunal of history. It is not only one of the greatest, but one of the most finished and intelligible, lives in history. My main purpose in expounding the book is to enable English readers, not only to follow its course, but to feel, and to be elevated by, its Divine inspiration.

I may state that this Exposition is based upon a close study of the Hebrew text of Isaiah, and that the translations are throughout my own, except in one or two cases where I have quoted from the revised English version.

With regard to the Revised Version of Isaiah, which I have had opportunities of thoroughly testing, I would like to say that my sense of the immense service which it renders to English readers of the Bible is only exceeded by my wonder that the Revisers have not gone just a very little farther, and adopted one or two simple contrivances which are in the line of their own improvements and would have greatly increased our large debt to them. For instance, why did they not make plain by inverted commas such undoubted interruptions of the prophet’s own speech as that of the drunkards in Isaiah 28:9-10? Not to know that these verses are spoken in mockery of Isaiah, a mockery to which he replies in Isaiah 28:10-13, is to miss the meaning of the whole passage. Again, when they printed Job and the Psalms in metrical form, as well as the hymn of Hezekiah, why did they not do the same with other poetical passages of Isaiah, particularly the great Ode on the King of Babylon in chapter 14? This is utterly spoiled in the form in which the Revisers have printed it. What English reader would guess that it was as much a piece of metre as any of the Psalms? Again, why have they so consistently rendered by the misleading word "judgment" a Hebrew term that no doubt sometimes means an act of doom, but far oftener the abstract quality of justice? It is such defects, along with a frequent failure to mark the proper emphasis in a sentence, that have led me to substitute a more literal version of my own.

I have not thought it necessary to discuss the question of the chronology of the period. This has been done so often and so recently. See Robertson Smith’s "Prophets of Israel," pp. 145, 402, 413, Driver’s "Isaiah," p. 12, or any good commentary.

I append a chronological table and the publishers have added a map of Isaiah’s world in illustration of chapter 5.

TABLE OF DATES

B.C.

745 Tiglath-pileser II ascends the Assyrian Throne.

740 Uzziah dies. Jotham becomes sole King of Judah. Isaiah’s Inaugural Vision. {Isaiah 6:1-13}

735 Jotham dies. Ahaz succeeds. League of Syria and Northern Israel against Judah.

734-732 Syrian Campaign of Tiglath-pileser II. Siege and Capture of Damascus. Invasion of Israel. Captivity of Zebulon, Naphtali and Galilee. {Isaiah 9:1} Ahaz visits Damascus.

727 Salmanassar IV succeeds Tiglath-pileser II. Hezekiah succeeds Ahaz (or in 725?).

725 Salmanassar marches on Syria.

722 or 721 Sargon succeeds Salmanassar. Capture of Samaria. Captivity of all Northern Israel.

720 or 719 Sargon defeats Egypt at Rafia.

711 Sargon invades Syria. {Isaiah 20:1-6} Capture of Ashdod.

709 Sargon takes Babylon from Merodach-baladan.

705 Murder of Sargon. Sennacherib succeeds.

701 Sennacherib invades Syria. Capture of Coast Towns. Siege of Ekron and Battle of Eltekeh. Invasion of Judah. Submission of Hezekiah. Jerusalem spared. Return of Assyrians with the Rabshakeh to Jerusalem, while Sennacherib’s Army marches on Egypt. Disaster to Sennacherib’s Army near Pelusium. Disappearance of Assyrians from before Jerusalem-all happening in this order.

697 or 696 Death of Hezekiah. Manasseh succeeds.

681 Death of Sennacherib.

607 Fall of Nineveh and Assyria. Babylon supreme. Jeremiah.

599 First Deportation of Jews to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.

588 Jerusalem destroyed. Second Deportation of Jews.

538 Cyrus captures Babylon. First Return of Jewish Exiles, under Zerubbabel, happens soon after 458. Second Return of Jewish Exiles, under Ezra.

INTRODUCTION

{From Isaiah Volume II}


THIS volume upon Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24, carries on the exposition of the Book of Isaiah from the point reached by the author’s previous volume in the same series. But as it accepts these twenty-seven chapters, upon their own testimony, as a separate prophecy from a century and a half later than Isaiah himself, in a style and on subjects not altogether the same as his, and as it accordingly pursues a somewhat different method of exposition from the previous volume, a few words of introduction are again necessary.

The greater part of Isaiah 1:1-31; Isaiah 2:1-22; Isaiah 3:1-26; Isaiah 4:1-6; Isaiah 5:1-30; Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22; Isaiah 9:1-21; Isaiah 10:1-34; Isaiah 11:1-16; Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32; Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 17:1-14; Isaiah 18:1-7; Isaiah 19:1-25; Isaiah 20:1-6; Isaiah 21:1-17; Isaiah 22:1-25; Isaiah 23:1-18; Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 25:1-12; Isaiah 26:1-21; Isaiah 27:1-13; Isaiah 28:1-29; Isaiah 29:1-24; Isaiah 30:1-33; Isaiah 31:1-9; Isaiah 32:1-20; Isaiah 33:1-24; Isaiah 34:1-17; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8 was addressed to a nation upon their own soil, -with their temple, their king, their statesmen, their tribunals and their markets, -responsible for the discharge of justice and social reform, for the conduct of foreign policies and the defence of the fatherland. But chapters 40-66 came to a people wholly in exile, and partly in servitude: with no civic life and few social responsibilities: a people in the passive state, with occasion for the exercise of almost no qualities save those of penitence and patience, of memory and hope. This difference between the two parts of the Book is summed up in their respective uses of the word Righteousness. In Isaiah 1:1-31; Isaiah 2:1-22; Isaiah 3:1-26; Isaiah 4:1-6; Isaiah 5:1-30; Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22; Isaiah 9:1-21; Isaiah 10:1-34; Isaiah 11:1-16; Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32; Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 17:1-14; Isaiah 18:1-7; Isaiah 19:1-25; Isaiah 20:1-6; Isaiah 21:1-17; Isaiah 22:1-25; Isaiah 23:1-18; Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 25:1-12; Isaiah 26:1-21; Isaiah 27:1-13; Isaiah 28:1-29; Isaiah 29:1-24; Isaiah 30:1-33; Isaiah 31:1-9; Isaiah 32:1-20; Isaiah 33:1-24; Isaiah 34:1-17; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8 or at least in such of these chapters as refer to Isaiah’s own day, righteousness is man’s moral and religious duty, in its contents of piety, purity, justice, and social service. In Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 righteousness (except in a very few cases) is something which the people expect from God-their historical vindication by His restoral and reinstatement of them as His people.

It is, therefore, evident that what rendered Isaiah’s own prophecies of so much charm and of so much meaning to the modern conscience-their treatment of those political and social questions which we have always with us-cannot form the chief interest of chapters 40-66. But the empty place is taken by a series of historical and religious questions of supreme importance. Into the vacuum created in Israel’s life by the Exile, there comes rushing the meaning of the nation’s whole history-all the conscience of their past, all the destiny with which their future is charged. It is not with the fortunes and duties of a single generation that this great prophecy has to do: it is with a people in their entire significance and promise. The standpoint of the prophet may be the Exile, but his vision ranges from Abraham to Christ. Besides the business of the hour, -the deliverance of Israel from Babylon, -the prophet addresses himself to these questions: What is Israel? What is Israel’s God? How is Jehovah different from other gods? How is Israel different from other peoples? He recalls the making of the nation, God’s treatment of them from the beginning, all that they and Jehovah have been to each other and to the world, and especially the meaning of this latest judgment of Exile. But the instruction and the impetus of that marvellous past he uses in order to interpret and proclaim the still more glorious future, -the ideal, which God has set before His people, and in the realisation of which their history shall culminate. It is here that the Spirit of God lifts the prophet to the highest station in prophecy-to the richest consciousness of spiritual religion-to the clearest vision of Christ.

Accordingly, to expound Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24, is really to write the religious history of Israel. A prophet whose vision includes both Abraham and Christ, whose subject is the whole meaning and promise of Israel, cannot be adequately interpreted within the limits of his own text or of his own time. Excursions are necessary both to the history that is behind him, and to the history that is still in front of him. This is the reason of the appearance in this volume of chapters whose titles seem at first beyond its scope-such as From Isaiah to the Fall of Jerusalem: What Israel took into Exile: One God. One People: The Servant of the Lord in the New Testament. Moreover, much of this historical matter has an interest that is only historical. If in Isaiah’s own prophecies it is his generation’s likeness to ourselves, which appeals to our conscience, in chapters 40-66 of the Book called by his name it is Israel’s unique meaning and office for God in the world, which we have to study. We are called to follow an experience and a discipline unshared by any other generation of men; and to interest ourselves in matters that then happened once for all, such as the victory of the One God over the idols, or His choice of a single people through whom to reveal Himself to the world. We are called to watch work, which that representative and priestly people did for humanity, rather than, as in Isaiah’s own prophecies, work which has to be repeated by each new generation in its turn, and today also by ourselves. This is the reason why in an exposition of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24, like the present volume, there should be a good deal more of historical recital, and a good deal less of practical application, than in the exposition of Isaiah 1:1-31; Isaiah 2:1-22; Isaiah 3:1-26; Isaiah 4:1-6; Isaiah 5:1-30; Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22; Isaiah 9:1-21; Isaiah 10:1-34; Isaiah 11:1-16; Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32; Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 17:1-14; Isaiah 18:1-7; Isaiah 19:1-25; Isaiah 20:1-6; Isaiah 21:1-17; Isaiah 22:1-25; Isaiah 23:1-18; Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 25:1-12; Isaiah 26:1-21; Isaiah 27:1-13; Isaiah 28:1-29; Isaiah 29:1-24; Isaiah 30:1-33; Isaiah 31:1-9; Isaiah 32:1-20; Isaiah 33:1-24; Isaiah 34:1-17; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8.

At the same time we must not suppose that there is not very much in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 with which to stir our own consciences and instruct our own lives. For, to mention no more, there is that sense of sin with which Israel entered exile, and which has made the literature of Israel’s Exile the confessional of the world; there is that great unexhausted programme of the Service of God and Man, which our prophet lays down as Israel’s duty and example to humanity; and there is that prophecy of the virtue and glory of vicarious suffering for sin, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Cross.

I have found it necessary to devote more space to critical questions than in the previous volume. Chapters 40-66 approach more nearly to a unity than chapters 1-39: with very few exceptions they lie in chronological order. But they are not nearly so clearly divided and grouped: their connection cannot be so briefly or so lucidly explained. The form of the prophecy is dramatic, but the scenes and the speakers are not definitely marked off. In spite of the chronological advance, which we shall be able to trace, there are no clear stages-not even, as we shall see, at those points at which most expositors divide the prophecy, the end of chapter 49 and of chapter 58. The prophet pursues simultaneously several lines of thought; and though the close of some of these and the rise of others may be marked to a verse, his frequent passages from one to another are often almost imperceptible. He everywhere requires a more continuous translation, a closer and more elaborate exegesis, than were necessary for Isaiah 1:1-31; Isaiah 2:1-22; Isaiah 3:1-26; Isaiah 4:1-6; Isaiah 5:1-30; Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22; Isaiah 9:1-21; Isaiah 10:1-34; Isaiah 11:1-16; Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32; Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 17:1-14; Isaiah 18:1-7; Isaiah 19:1-25; Isaiah 20:1-6; Isaiah 21:1-17; Isaiah 22:1-25; Isaiah 23:1-18; Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 25:1-12; Isaiah 26:1-21; Isaiah 27:1-13; Isaiah 28:1-29; Isaiah 29:1-24; Isaiah 30:1-33; Isaiah 31:1-9; Isaiah 32:1-20; Isaiah 33:1-24; Isaiah 34:1-17; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8.

In order to effect some general arrangement and division of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 it is necessary to keep in view that the immediate problem which the prophet had before him was twofold. It was political, and it was spiritual. There was, first of all, the deliverance of Israel from Babylon, according to the ancient promises of Jehovah: to this were attached such questions as Jehovah’s omnipotence, faithfulness, and grace; the meaning of Cyrus; the condition of the Babylonian Empire. But after their political deliverance from Babylon was assured, there remained the really larger problem of Israel’s spiritual readiness for the freedom and the destiny to which God was to lead them through the opened gates of their prison-house: to this were attached such questions as the original calling and mission of Israel; the mixed and paradoxical character of the people; their need of a Servant from the Lord, since they themselves had failed to be His Servant; the coming of this Servant, his methods and results.

This twofold division of the prophet’s problem will not, it is true, strike his prophecy into separate and distinct groups of chapters. He who attempts such a division simply does not understand "Second Isaiah." But it will make clear to us the different currents of the sacred argument, which flow sometimes through and through one another, and sometimes singly and in succession; and it will give us a plan for grouping the twenty-seven chapters very nearly, if not quite, in the order in which they lie.

On these principles, the following exposition is divided into Four Books. The First is called THE EXILE: it contains an argument for placing the date of the prophecy about 550 B.C., and brings the history of Israel down to that date from the time of Isaiah; it states the political and spiritual sides of the double problem to which the prophecy is God’s answer; it describes what Israel took with them into exile, and what they learned and suffered there, till, after half a century, the herald voices of our prophecy broke upon their waiting ears. The Second Book, THE LORD’S DELIVERANCE, discusses the political redemption from Babylon, with the questions attached to it about God’s nature and character, about Cyrus and Babylon, or all of chs. 40-48, except the passages about the Servant, which are easily detached from the rest, and refer rather to the spiritual side of Israel’s great problem. The Third Book, THE SERVANT OF THE LORD, expounds all the passages on that subject, both in chapters 40-48 and in chapters 49-53, with the development of the subject in the New Testament, and its application to our life today. The Servant and his work are the solution of all the spiritual difficulties in the way of the people’s Return and Restoration. To these latter and their practical details the rest of the prophecy is devoted; that is, all chapters 49-66, except the passages on the Servant, and these chapters are treated in the Fourth Book of this volume, THE RESTORATION.

As much as possible of the merely critical discussion has been put in chapter 1, or in the opening paragraphs of the other chapters, or in footnotes. A new translation from the original (except where a few verses have been taken from the Revised English Version) has been provided for nearly the whole prophecy. Where the rhythm of the original is at all discernible, the translation has been made in it. But it must be kept in mind that this reproduction of the original rhythm is only approximate, and that in it no attempt has been made to elegance; its chief aim being to make clear the order and the emphases of the original. The translation is almost quite literal.

Having felt the want of a clear account of the prophet’s use of his great key-word Righteousness, I have inserted for students, at the end of Book II, a chapter on this term. Summaries of our prophet’s use of such cardinal terms as Mishpat, R’ishonoth, The Isles, etc., will be found in notes. For want of space I have had to exclude some sections on the Style of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24, on the Influence of monotheism on the imagination, and on What Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 owes to Jeremiah. This debt, as we shall be able to trace, is so great that "Second Jeremiah" would be a title no less proper for the prophecy than "Second Isaiah."

I had also wished to append a chapter on Commentaries on the Book of Isaiah. No Scripture has been so nobly served by its commentaries. To begin with there was Calvin, and there is Calvin, -still as valuable as ever for his strong spiritual power, his sanity, his moderation, his sensitiveness to the changes and shades of the prophet’s meaning. After him Vitringa, Gesenius, Hitzig, Ewald, Delitzsch, all the great names of the past in Old Testament criticism, are connected with Isaiah. In the recent years (besides Nagelsbach in Lange’s "Bibelwerk") we have Cheyne’s two volumes, too well known both here and in Germany to need more than mention; Bredenkamp’s clear and concise exposition, the characteristic of which is an attempt-not, however, successful-to distinguish authentic prophecies of Isaiah in the disputed chapters; Orelli’s handy volume (in Strack and Zockler’s compendious Commentary, and translated into English by Professor Banks in Messrs. Clarks’ Foreign Theological Library), from the conservative side, but, accepting, as Delitzsch does in his last edition, the dual authorship; and this year Dillmann’s great work, replacing Knoble’s in the "Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch" series. I regret that I did not receive Dillmann’s work till more than half of this volume was written. English students will have all they can possibly need if they can add Dillmann to Delitzsch and Cheyne, though Calvin and Ewald must never be forgotten. Professor Driver’s "Isaiah: His Life and Times" is a complete handbook to the prophet. On the theology, besides the relevant portions of Schultz’s "Alt-Testamentliche Theologie" (4th ed., 1889), and Duhm’s "Theologic der Phopheten," the student will find invaluable Professor Robertson Smith’s "Prophets of Israel" for Isaiah 1:1-31; Isaiah 2:1-22; Isaiah 3:1-26; Isaiah 4:1-6; Isaiah 5:1-30; Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22; Isaiah 9:1-21; Isaiah 10:1-34; Isaiah 11:1-16; Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32; Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 17:1-14; Isaiah 18:1-7; Isaiah 19:1-25; Isaiah 20:1-6; Isaiah 21:1-17; Isaiah 22:1-25; Isaiah 23:1-18; Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 25:1-12; Isaiah 26:1-21; Isaiah 27:1-13; Isaiah 28:1-29; Isaiah 29:1-24; Isaiah 30:1-33; Isaiah 31:1-9; Isaiah 32:1-20; Isaiah 33:1-24; Isaiah 34:1-17; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8, and Professor A. B. Davidson’s papers in the Expositor for 1884 on the theology of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24. There are also Kruger’s able and lucid "Essai sur la Theologie d’Isaie 40-66" (Paris, 1882), and Guthe’s "Das Zukunftsbild Jesaias," and Barth’s and Giesebrecht’s respective "Beitrage zur Jesaiakritik," the latter published this year.

In conclusion I have to express my thanks for the very great assistance which I have derived in the composition of the book from my friend Rev. Charles Anderson Scott, B. A., who has sought out facts and read nearly all the proofs.

{e-Sword Note: This chapter was presented near the end of the “Book 4” of the printed editon.}

CHAPTER XXIV

A REVIEW OF ISAIAH’S PREDICTIONS

CONCERNING THE DELIVERANCE OF JERUSALEM


As we have gathered together all that Isaiah prophesied concerning the Messiah, so it may be useful to closer students of his book if we now summarise (even at the risk of a little repetition) the facts of his marvellous prediction of the siege and delivery of Jerusalem. Such a review, besides being historically interesting, ought to prove of edification in so far as it instructs us in the kind of faith by which the Holy Ghost inspired a prophet to foretell the future.

1. The primary conviction with which Isaiah felt himself inspired by the Spirit of Jehovah was a purely moral one-that a devastation of Judah was necessary for her people’s sin, to which he shortly added a religious one: that a remnant would be saved. He had this double conviction as early as 740 B.C. {Isaiah 6:11-13}

2. Looking round the horizon for some phenomenon with which to identify this promised judgment, Isaiah described the latter at first without naming any single people as the invaders of Judah. {Isaiah 5:26 ff.} It may have been that for a moment he hesitated between Assyria and Egypt. Once he named them together as equally the Lord’s instruments upon Judah, {Isaiah 7:18} but only once. When Ahaz resolved to call Assyria into the Syrian quarrels, Isaiah exclusively designated the northern power as the scourge he had predicted; and when in 732 the Assyrian armies had overrun Samaria, he graphically described their necessary overflow into Judah also (chapter 8). This invasion did not spread to Judah, but Isaiah’s combined moral and political conviction, for both elements of which he claimed the inspiration of God’s Spirit, seized him with renewed strength in 725, when Salmanassar marched south upon Israel (chapter 33); and in 721, when Sargon captured Samaria, Isaiah uttered a vivid description of his speedy arrival before Jerusalem. {Isaiah 10:28 ff.} This prediction was again disappointed. But Sargon’s departure without invading Judah, and her second escape from him on his return to Syria in 711, did not in the least induce Isaiah to relax either of his two convictions, judah he proclaimed to be as much in need of punishment as ever (chapters 29-32); and, though on Sargon’s death all Palestine revolted from Assyria to Egypt, he persisted that this would not save her from Sennacherib (Isaiah 14:29 ff; Isaiah 29:1-24; Isaiah 30:1-33. The "dourness" with which his countrymen believed in Egypt naturally caused the prophet to fill his orations at this time with the political side of his conviction that Assyria was stronger than Egypt; but because Jerusalem’s Egyptian policy springs from a deceitful temper {Isaiah 30:1; Isaiah 30:9-10} he is as earnest as ever with his moral conviction that judgment is coming. After 705 his pictures of a siege of Jerusalem grow more definite (chapters 29; 30). He seems scorched by the nearness of the Assyrian conflagration. {Isaiah 30:27 ff.} At last in 701, when Sennacherib comes to Palestine, the siege is pictured as immediate-chapters 1 and 20, which also show at its height the prophet’s moral conviction of the necessity of the siege for punishing his people.

3. But over against this moral conviction, that Judah must be devastated for her sin, and this political, that Assyria is to be the instrument, even to the extreme of a siege of Jerusalem, the prophet still holds strongly to the religious assurance that God cannot allow His shrine to be violated or His people to be exterminated. At first it is only of the people that Isaiah speaks - the remnant. {Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 8:18} Jerusalem is not mentioned in the verses that describe the overflowing of all Judah by Assyria {Isaiah 8:7}. It is only when at last, in 721, the prophet realises how near a siege of Jerusalem may be, {Isaiah 10:11; Isaiah 10:28-32} that he also pictures the sudden destruction of the Assyrian on his arrival within sight of her walls. {Isaiah 10:33} In 705, when the siege of the sacred city once more becomes imminent, the prophet again reiterates to the heathen that Zion alone shall stand among the cities of Syria. {Isaiah 14:32} To herself he says that, though she shall be besieged and brought very low, she shall finally be delivered. {Isaiah 29:1-8; Isaiah 30:19-26; Isaiah 31:1-8; Isaiah 30:4-5} It is true, this conviction seems to be broken-once by a prophecy of uncertain date, {Isaiah 32:14} which indicates a desolation of the buildings of Jerusalem, and once by the prophet’s sentence of death upon the inhabitants in the hour of their profligacy (chapter 22)-but when the city has repented, and the enemy have perfidiously come back to demand her surrender, Isaiah again asseverates, though all are hopeless, that she shall not fall (chapter 37).

4. Now, with regard to the method of Jerusalem’s deliverance, Isaiah has uniformly described this as happening not by human battle. From the beginning he said that Israel should be delivered in the last extremity of their weakness. {Isaiah 6:13} On the Assyrian’s arrival over against the city, Jehovah is to lop him off. {Isaiah 10:33} When her enemies have invested Jerusalem, Jehovah is to come down in thunder and a hurricane and sweep them away (after 705, Isaiah 29:5-8). They are to be suddenly disappointed, like a hungry man waking from a dream of food. A beautiful promise is given of the raising of the siege without mention of struggle or any weapon. {Isaiah 30:20-26} The Assyrian is to be checked as a wild bull is checked "with a lasso," is to be slain "by the lighting down of the Lord’s arm, by the voice of the Lord," through a judgment that shall be like a solemn holocaust to God than a human battle. {Isaiah 30:30-33} When the Assyrian comes back, and Hezekiah is crushed by the new demand for surrender, Isaiah says that, by a Divinely inspired impulse, Sennacherib, hearing bad news, shall suddenly return to his own land. {Isaiah 38:7}

It is only in very little details that these predictions differ. The thunderstorm and torrents of fire are, of course, but poetic variations. In 721, however, the prophet hardly anticipates the very close siege, which he pictures after 705; and while from 705 to 702 he identifies the relief of Jerusalem with a great calamity to the Assyrian army about to invade Judah, yet in 701, when the Assyrians are actually on the spot, he suggests that nothing but a rumour shall cause their retreat and so leave Jerusalem free of them.

5. In all this we see a certain fixity and a certain freedom. The freedom, the changes and inconsistencies in the prediction, are entirely limited to those of Isaiah’s convictions, which we have called political, and which the prophet evidently gathered from his observation of political circumstances as these developed before his eyes from year to year. But what was fixed and unalterable to Isaiah, he drew from the moral and religious convictions to which his political observation was subservient; viz., Judah’s very sore punishment for sin, the survival of a people of God in the world, and their deliverance by His own act.

6. This "Bible-reading" in Isaiah’s predictive prophecies reveals very clearly the nature of inspiration under the old covenant. To Isaiah inspiration was nothing more nor less than the possession of certain strong moral and religious convictions, which he felt he owed to the communication of the Spirit of God, and according to which he interpreted, and even dared to foretell, the history of his people and the world. Our study completely dispels, on the evidence of the Bible itself, that view of inspiration and prediction, so long held in the Church, which it is difficult to define, but which means something like this: that the prophet beheld a vision of the future in its actual detail and read this off as a man may read the history of the past out of a book or a clear memory. This is a very simple view, but too simple either to meet the facts of the Bible, or to afford to men any of that intellectual and spiritual satisfaction which the discovery of the Divine methods is sure to afford. The literal view of inspiration is too simple to be true, and too simple to be edifying. On the other hand, how profitable, how edifying, is the Bible’s own account of its inspiration! To know that men interpreted, predicted, and. controlled history in the power of the purest moral and religious convictions-in the knowledge of, and the loyalty to, certain fundamental laws of God-is to receive an account of inspiration which is not only as satisfying to the reason as it is true to the facts of the Bible, but is spiritually very helpful by the lofty example and reward it sets before our own faith. By faith differing in degree, but not in kind, from ours, "faith which is the substance of things hoped for," these men became prophets of God, and received the testimony of history that they spoke from Him. Isaiah prophesied and predicted all he did from loyalty to two simple truths, which he tells us he received from God Himself: that sin must be punished, and that the people of God must be saved. This simple faith, acting along with a wonderful knowledge of human nature and ceaseless vigilance of affairs, constituted inspiration for Isaiah.

There is thus, with great modifications, an analogy between the prophet and the scientific observer of the present day. Men of science are able to affirm the certainty of natural phenomena by their knowledge of the laws and principles of nature. Certain forces being present, certain results must come to pass. The Old Testament prophets, working in history, a sphere where the problems were infinitely more complicated by the presence and powerful operation of man’s free-will, seized hold of principles as conspicuous and certain to them as the laws of nature are to the scientist; and out of their conviction of these they proclaimed the necessity of certain events. God is inflexibly righteous, He cannot utterly destroy His people or the witness of Himself among men: these were the laws. Judah shall be punished, Israel shall continue to exist: these were the certainties deduced from the laws. But for the exact conditions and forms both of the punishment and its relief the prophets depended upon their knowledge of the world, of which, as these pages testify, they were the keenest and largest-hearted observers that ever appeared.

This account of prophecy may be offered with advantage to those who are prejudiced against prophecy as full of materials, which are inexplicable to minds accustomed to find a law and reason for everything. Grant the truths of the spiritual doctrines, which the prophets made their premises, and you must admit that their predictions are neither arbitrary nor bewildering. Or begin at the other end: verify that these facts took place, and that the prophets actually predicted them; and if you are true to your own scientific methods, you will not be able to resist the conclusion that the spiritual laws and principles, by which the predictions were made, are as real as those by which in the realm of nature you proclaim the necessity of certain physical phenomena-and all this in spite of there being at work in the prophet’s sphere a force, the freewill of man, which cannot interfere with the laws you work by, as it can with those on which they depend.

But, to turn from the apologetic value of this account of prophecy to the experimental, we maintain that it brings out a new sacredness upon common life. If it be true that Isaiah had no magical means for foretelling the future, but simply his own spiritual convictions and his observation of history, that may, of course, deprive some eyes of a light which they fancied they saw bursting from heaven. But, on the other hand, does it not cast a greater glory upon daily life and history, to have seen in Isaiah this close connection between spiritual conviction and political event? Does it not teach us that life is governed by faith; that the truths we profess are the things that make history; that we carry the future in our hearts; that not an event happens but is to be used by us as meaning the effect of some law of God, and not a fact appears but is the symbol and sacrament of His truth?

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