Isaiah 1:3
The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel does not know, my people does not consider.
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(3) The ox knoweth his owner . . .—As in Exodus 20:17; 1Samuel 12:3, the ox and the ass rather than, as with us, the horse and the dog, are the representative instances of the relation of domesticated animals to man. These know that relation, and act according to it; but Israel did not, or rather would not, know. So Jeremiah dwells, turning to a different region of animal life, on the instinct which leads the stork, the swallow, and the crane to fulfil the law of their being (Jeremiah 8:7), while Israel “knew not”—i.e., did not acknowledge—the law of Jehovah.




Isaiah 1:3

This is primarily an indictment against Israel, but it touches us all. ‘Doth not know’ i.e. has no familiar acquaintance with; ‘doth not consider,’ i.e. frivolously ignores, never meditates on.

I. This is a common attitude of mind towards God.

Blank indifference towards Him is far more frequent than conscious hostility. Take a hundred men at random as they hurry through the streets, and how many of them would have to acknowledge that no thought of God had crossed their minds for days or months? So far as they are concerned, either in regard to their thoughts or actions, He is ‘a superfluous hypothesis.’ Most men are not conscious of rebellion against Him, and to charge them with it does not rouse conscience, but they cannot but plead guilty to this indictment, ‘God is not in all their thoughts.’

II. This attitude is strange and unnatural.

That a man should be able to forget God, and live as if there were no such Being, is strange. It is one instance of that awful power of ignoring the most important subjects, of which every life affords so many and tragic instances. It seems as if we had above us an opium sky which rains down soporifics, go that we are fast asleep to all that it most concerns us to wake to. But still stranger is it that, having that power of attending or not attending to subjects, we should so commonly exercise it on this subject. For, as the ox that knows the hand that feeds him, and the ass that makes for his ‘master’s crib’ where he is sure of fodder and straw, might teach us, the stupidest brute has sense enough to recognise who is kind to him, or has authority over him, and where he can find what he needs. The godless man descends below the animals’ level. And to ignore Him is intensely stupid. But it is worse than foolish, for III. This attitude is voluntary and criminal.

Though there is not conscious hostility in it, the root of it is a subconscious sense of discordance with God and of antagonism between His will and the man’s When we are quite sure that we love another, and that hearts beat in accord and wills go out towards the same things, we do not need to make efforts to think of that other, but our minds turn towards him or her as to a home, whenever released from the holding-back force of necessary occupations. If we love God, and have our will set to do His will, our thoughts will fly to Him, ‘as doves to their windows.’

It is fed by preoccupation of thought with other things. We have but a certain limited amount of energy of thought or attention, and if we waste it, as much as most of us do, on ‘things seen and temporal,’ there is none left for the unseen realities and the God who is ‘eternal, invisible.’ It is often reinforced by theoretical uncertainty, sometimes real, often largely unreal. But after all, the true basis of it is, what Paul gives as its cause, ‘they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.’

The criminality of this indifference! It is heartlessly ungrateful. Dogs lick the hand that feeds them; ox and ass in their dull way recognise something almost like obligation arising from benefits and care. No ingratitude is meaner and baser than that of which we are guilty, if we do not requite Him ‘in whose hands our breath is, and whose are all our ways,’ by even one thankful heart-throb or one word shaped out of the breath that He gives.

IV. This attitude is fatal.

It separates us from God, and separation from Him is the very definition of Death. A God of whom we never think is all the same to us as a God who does not exist. Strike God out of a life, and you strike the sun out of the system, and wrap all in darkness and weltering chaos. ‘This is life eternal, to know Thee’; but if ‘Israel doth not know,’ Israel has slain itself.Isaiah 1:3. The ox knoweth his owner, &c. — In these words the prophet amplifies “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 stupidest of all beasts; for there is scarce 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 his good; neither are they looked upon as children, but as beasts of burden; neither are they advanced to honours, but oppressed with great and daily labours. While the Israelites, chosen by the mere favour 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.’” See a comparison of Jeremiah 8:7, to the same purpose, equally elegant; but not so forcible and severe as this of Isaiah.1:1-9 Isaiah signifies, The salvation of the Lord; a very suitable name for this prophet, who prophesies so much of Jesus the Saviour, and his salvation. God's professing people did not know or consider that they owed their lives and comforts to God's fatherly care and kindness. How many are very careless in the affairs of their souls! Not considering what we do know in religion, does us as much harm, as ignorance of what we should know. The wickedness was universal. Here is a comparison taken from a sick and diseased body. The distemper threatens to be mortal. From the sole of the foot even to the head; from the meanest peasant to the greatest peer, there is no soundness, no good principle, no religion, for that is the health of the soul. Nothing but guilt and corruption; the sad effects of Adam's fall. This passage declares the total depravity of human nature. While sin remains unrepented, nothing is done toward healing these wounds, and preventing fatal effects. Jerusalem was exposed and unprotected, like the huts or sheds built up to guard ripening fruits. These are still to be seen in the East, where fruits form a large part of the summer food of the people. But the Lord had a small remnant of pious servants at Jerusalem. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed. The evil nature is in every one of us; only Jesus and his sanctifying Spirit can restore us to spiritual health.The ox ... - The design of this comparison is to show the great stupidity and ingratitude of the Jews. Even the least sagacious and most stupid of the animals, destitute as they are of reason and conscience, evince knowledge and submission far more than the professed people of God. The ox is a well known domestic animal, remarkable for patient willingness to toil, and for submission to his owner.

Knoweth his owner - Recognizes, or is submissive to him.

The ass - A well known animal, proverbial for dulness and stupidity.

His master's crib - אבוס 'êbûs from אבס 'âbas, to heap up, and then to fatten. Hence, it is applied to the stall, barn, or crib, where cattle are fed, or made fat; Job 39:9; Proverbs 14:4. The donkey has sufficient knowledge to understand that his support is derived from that. The idea is, that the ox was more submissive to laws than the Jews; and that even the most stupid animal better knew from where support was to be derived, than they did the source of their comfort and protection. The donkey would not wander away, and the ox would not rebel as they had done. This comparison was very striking, and very humiliating, and nothing could be more suited to bring down their pride. A similar comparison is used elsewhere. Thus, in Jeremiah 8:7, the Jews are contrasted with the stork: 'Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle Dove, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.' This idea has been beautifully expressed by Watts:

The brutes obey their God,

And bow their necks to men;

But we more base, more brutish things,

Reject his easy reign.

Compare Hosea 11:4.

But Israel - The name Israel, though after the division of the tribes into two kingdoms specifically employed to denote that of the ten tribes, is often used in the more general sense to denote the whole people of the Jews, including the kingdom of Judah. It refers here to the kingdom of Judah, though a name is used which is not inappropriately characteristic of the whole people.

Doth not know - The Latin Vulgate, the Septuagint, and the Arabic, add the word 'me.' The word know is used in the sense of recognizing him as their Lord; of acknowledging him, or submitting to him.

Doth not consider - Hebrew, Do not "understand." They have a stupidity greater than the brute.

3. (Jer 8:7).

crib—the stall where it is fed (Pr 14:4). Spiritually the word and ordinances.

Israel—The whole nation, Judah as well as Israel, in the restricted sense. God regards His covenant-people in their designed unity.

not know—namely, his Owner, as the parallelism requires; that is, not recognize Him as such (Ex 19:5, equivalent to "my people," Joh 1:10, 11).

consider—attend to his Master (Isa 41:8), notwithstanding the spiritual food which He provides (answering to "crib" in the parallel clause).

The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; the most stupid brute beasts acknowledge and obey their Lord and Benefactor, as experience showeth.

Israel doth not know, to wit, me, their Owner and Master, which is easily and necessarily understood out of the former clause.

Knowing is here taken practically, as it is usually in Scripture, and includes reverence and obedience. The ox knoweth his owner,.... Knows his voice, when he calls him, and follows him where he leads him, whether to plough in the field, or feed in the meadows;

and the ass his masters crib, or "manger"; where he is fed, and to which he goes when he wants food, and at the usual times. Gussetius (w) interprets the words; the ass knows the floor where he treads out the corn, and willingly goes to it, though it is to labour, as well as to eat; and so puts Israel to shame, who were weary of the worship of God in the temple, where spiritual food was provided for them, but chose not to go for it, because of labour there.

But Israel doth not know; his Maker and Owner, his King, Lord, and Master, his Father, Saviour, and Redeemer; he does not own and acknowledge him, but rejects him; see John 1:10.

My people doth not consider; the Jews, who were the people of God by profession, did not stir themselves up to consider, nor make use of means of knowing and understanding, divine and spiritual things, as the word used (x) signifies; they would not attend to the word and ordinances, which answer to the crib or manger; they would not hear nor regard the ministry of the word by Christ and his apostles, nor suffer others, but hindered them as much as in them lay; see Matthew 23:13. The Targum is,

"Israel does not learn to know my fear, my people do not understand to turn to my law.''

In like manner the more than brutal stupidity of this people is exposed in Jeremiah 8:7.

(w) Comment. Ling. Ebr. p. 13, 14. (x) a "intellexit". So Gussetius says it signifies a spontaneous application, by which you stir up yourself to understand; which is an action leading to wisdom, and without which no man can be wise, Comment. Ling. Ebr. p. 121.

The {f} ox knoweth his owner, and the donkey his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.

(f) The most dull and brute beasts acknowledge their duty more toward their masters, than my people do toward me, of whom they have received benefits without comparison.

3. Israel’s ingratitude is rebuked by the instinctive fidelity of the dumb animals to their human benefactors (cf. Jeremiah 8:7). Ox and ass are mentioned, not as the most stupid animals, but as the only thoroughly domesticated animals of the Hebrews,—lodged probably under the same roof as their owner and his family.Verse 3. - The ox... the ass. The ox and the ass are probably selected as the least intelligent of domesticated animals (so Jerome, Rosenmüller, and Gesenius). Yet even they recognize their owner or master. Jeremiah contrasts the brutish stupidity of Israel with the wise instinct of animals that have not been domesticated, as the stork, the turtle-dove, the crane, and the swallow (Jeremiah 8:7). Israel doth not know; i.e. does not acknowledge its Master and Owner, pays him no respect, does not recognize him as either Owner or Master. My people. Compare the formula, so frequent in Exodus, "Let my people go" (Exodus 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, etc.). Israel was God's people by election (Genesis 15:13), by covenant (Exodus 19:5-8; Exodus 24:3-8), by pardoning grace (Exodus 33:12-17). Despite all their backslidings, he had not yet cast them off. They are still "his people" in Isaiah from first to last, standing in contrast with "the nations, "or "the Gentiles, "among whom they are to be "set as a sign" (Isaiah 66:19). Doth net consider. Gesenius translates, "doth not consider thereof;" Cheyne, "is without understanding." Bishop Lowth retains the words of the Authorized Version. The meaning would seem to be, "My people doth not consider me, cloth not reflect on my relation to them as Lord and Master." It now lies near, at least rather so than remote, that Shulamith, thinking of her brothers, presents her request before her royal husband:

11 Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-hamon;

     He committed the vineyard to the keepers,

     That each should bring for its fruit

     A thousand in silv.

12 I myself disposed of my own vineyard:

     The thousand is thine, Solomon,

     And two hundred for the keepers of its fruit!

The words לשׁ היה כּרם are to be translated after כרמוגו, 1 Kings 21:1, and לידידי ... , Isaiah 5:1, "Solomon had a vineyard" (cf. 1 Samuel 9:2; 2 Samuel 6:23; 2 Samuel 12:2; 2 Kings 1:17; 1 Chronicles 23:17; 1 Chronicles 26:10), not "Solomon has a vineyard," which would have required the words לשׁ כרם, with the omission of היה. I formerly explained, as also Bttcher: a vineyard became his, thus at present is his possession; and thus explaining, one could suppose that it fell to him, on his taking possession of his government, as a component part of his domain; but although in itself לו היה can mean, "this or that has become one's own" (e.g., Leviticus 21:3), as well as "it became his own," yet here the historical sense is necessarily connected by היה with the נתן foll.: Solomon has had ... , he has given; and since Solomon, after possession the vineyard, would probably also preserve it, Hitzig draws from this the conclusion, that the poet thereby betrays the fact that he lived after the time of Solomon. But these are certainly words which he puts into Shulamith's mouth, and he cannot at least have forgotten that the heroine of his drama is a contemporary of Solomon; and supposing that he had forgotten this for a moment, he must have at least once read over what he had written, and could not have been so blind as to have allowed this היה which had escaped him to stand. We must thus assume that he did not in reality retain the vineyard, which, as Hitzig supposes, if he possessed it, he also "probably" retained, whether he gave it away or exchanged it, or sold it, we know not; but the poet might suppose that Shulamith knew it, since it refers to a piece of land lying not far from her home. For המון בּעל, lxx Βεελαμών, is certainly the same as that mentioned in Judith 8:3, according to which Judith's husband died from sunstroke in Bethulia, and was buried beside his fathers "between Dothaim and Balamoon"

(Note: This is certainly not the Baal-meon (now Man) lying half an hour to the south of Heshbon; there is also, however, a Meon (now Man) on this the west side of Jordan, Nabal's Maon, near to Carmel. Vid., art. "Maon," by Kleuker in Schenkel's Bibl. Lex.)

(probably, as the sound of the word denotes, Belmen, or, more accurately, Belman, as it is also called in Judith 4:4, with which Kleuker in Schenkel's Bibl. Lex., de Bruyn in his Karte, and others, interchange it; and חמּון, Joshua 19:28, lying in the tribe of Asher). This Balamoon lay not far from Dothan, and thus not far from Esdrelon; for Dothan lay (cf. Judith 3:10) south of the plain of Jezreel, where it has been discovered, under the name of Tell Dotan, in the midst of a smaller plain which lies embosomed in the hills of the south.

(Note: Vid., Robinson's Physical Geogr. of the Holy Land, p. 113; Morrison's Recovery of Jerusalem (1871), p. 463, etc.)

The ancients, since Aquila, Symm., Targ., Syr., and Jerome, make the name of the place Baal-hamon subservient to their allegorizing interpretation, but only by the aid of soap-bubble-like fancies; e.g., Hengst. makes Baal-hamon designate the world; nothrim [keepers], the nations; the 1000 pieces in silver, the duties comprehended in the ten commandments. Hamon is there understood of a large, noisy crowd. The place may, indeed, have its name from the multitude of its inhabitants, or from an annual market held there, or otherwise from revelry and riot; for, according to Hitzig,

(Note: Cf. also Schwarz' Das heilige Land, p. 37.)


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