Isaiah 1:30
For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.
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(30) Ye shall be . . .—Men were to think of the pleasant places that had tempted them, not as they had seen them, fresh and green, but as burnt up and withered, and then were to see in that desolation a parable of their own future. The word for “strong” occurs only in Amos 2:9, where we find “strong as the oaks.”



Isaiah 1:30 - Isaiah 1:31

The original reference of these words is to the threatened retribution for national idolatry, of which ‘oaks’ and ‘gardens’ were both seats. The nation was, as it were, dried up and made inflammable; the idol was as the ‘spark’ or the occasion for destruction. But a wider application, which comes home to us all, is to the fatal results of sin. These need to be very plainly stated, because of the deceitfulness of sin, which goes on slaying men by thousands in silence.

‘That grim wolf with privy paw

Daily devours apace.’

I. Sin withers.

We see the picture of a blasted tree in the woods, while all around are in full leaf, with tiny leaves half developed and all brown at the edges. The prophet draws another picture, that of a garden not irrigated, and therefore, in the burning East, given over to barrenness.

Sin makes men fruitless and withered.

It involves separation from God, the source of all fruitfulness {Psalm 1:1 - Psalm 1:6}.

Think of how many pure desires and innocent susceptibilities die out of a sinful soul. Think of how many capacities for good disappear. Think of how dry and seared the heart becomes. Think of how conscience is stifled.

All sin-any sin-does this.

Not only gross, open transgressions, but any piece of godless living will do it.

Whatever a man does against his conscience-neglect of duty, habitual unveracity, idleness-in a word, his besetting sin withers him up.

And all the while the evil thing that is drawing his life-blood is growing like a poisonous, blotched fungus in a wine-cask.

II. Sin makes men inflammable.

‘As tow’ or tinder.

A subsidiary reference may be intended to the sinful man as easily catching fire at temptation. But the main thought is that sin makes a man ready for destruction, ‘whose end is to be burned.’

The materials for retribution are laid up in a man’s nature by wrong-doing. The conspirators store the dynamite in a dark cellar. Conscience and memory are charged with explosives.

If tendencies, habits, and desires become tyrannous by long indulgence and cannot be indulged, what a fierce fire would rage then!

We have only to suppose a man made to know what is the real moral character of his actions, and to be unable to give them up, to have hell.

All this is confirmed by occasional glimpses which men get of themselves. Our own characters are the true Medusa-head which turns a man into stone when he sees it.

What, then, are we really doing by our sins? Piling together fuel for burning.

III. Sin burns up.

‘Work as a spark.’ The evil deeds brought into contact with the doer work destruction. That is, if, in a future life or at any time, a man is brought face to face with his acts, then retribution begins. We shake off the burden of our actions by want of remembrance. But that power of ignoring the past may be broken down at any time. Suppose it happens that in another world it can no longer be exercised, what then?

Evil deeds are the occasion of the divine retribution. They are ‘a spark.’ It is they who light the pyre, not God. The prophet here protests in God’s name against the notion that He is to be blamed for punishing. Men are their own self-tormentors. The sinful man immolates himself. Like Isaac, he carries the wood and lays the pile for his own burning.

Christ severs the connection between us and our evil. He restores beauty and freshness to the blighted tree, planting it as ‘by the river of water,’ so that it ‘bringeth forth its fruit in its season,’ and its ‘leaf also doth not wither.’

Isaiah 1:30. For ye shall be as an oak, &c. — As you have sinned under the oaks and in the gardens, so you shall be like unto oaks and gardens, not when they are green and flourishing, but when they wither and decay. This verse is remarkably elegant, in which, what was the pleasure and confidence of those idolaters, is made to denote their punishment. “All the gardens in the East,” says a late writer, “have water in them, which is so absolutely necessary, that without it every thing, in summer, would be parched up. This is a circumstance which we should attend to, if we would enter into the energy of the latter clause.”

1:21-31 Neither holy cities nor royal ones are faithful to their trust, if religion does not dwell in them. Dross may shine like silver, and the wine that is mixed with water may still have the colour of wine. Those have a great deal to answer for, who do not help the oppressed, but oppress them. Men may do much by outward restraints; but only God works effectually by the influences of his Spirit, as a Spirit of Judgment. Sin is the worst captivity, the worst slavery. The redemption of the spiritual Zion, by the righteousness and death of Christ, and by his powerful grace, most fully accord with what is here meant. Utter ruin is threatened. The Jews should become as a tree when blasted by heat; as a garden without water, which in those hot countries would soon be burned up. Thus shall they be that trust in idols, or in an arm of flesh. Even the strong man shall be as tow; not only soon broken, and pulled to pieces, but easily catching fire. When the sinner has made himself as tow and stubble, and God makes himself as a consuming fire, what can prevent the utter ruin of the sinner?For ye ... - The mention of the tree in the previous verse, gives the prophet occasion for the beautiful image in this. They had desired the oak, and they should be like it. That, when the frost came, was divested of its beauty, and its leaves faded, and fell; so should their beauty and privileges and happiness, as a people, fade away at the anger of God.

A garden that hath no water - That is therefore withered and parched up; where nothing would flourish, but where all would be desolation - a most striking image of the approaching desolation of the Jewish nation. In Eastern countries this image would be more striking than with us. In these hot regions, a constant supply of water is necessary for the cultivation, and even for the very existence and preservation of a garden. Should it lack water for a few days, everything in it would be burned up with neat and totally destroyed. In all gardens, therefore, in those regions; there must be a constant supply of water, either from some neighboring river, or from some fountain or reservoir within it. To secure such a fountain became an object of indispensable importance, not only for the coolness and pleasantness of the garden, but for the very existence of the vegetation. Dr. Russell, in his Natural History of Aleppo, says, that 'all the gardens of Aleppo are on the banks of the river that runs by that city, or on the sides of the rill that supplies their aqueduct;' and all the rest of the country he represents as perfectly burned up in the summer months, the gardens only retaining their verdure, on account of the moistness of their situation.

30. oak—Ye shall be like the "oaks," the object of your "desire" (Isa 1:29). People become like the gods they worship; they never rise above their level (Ps 135:18). So men's sins become their own scourges (Jer 2:9). The leaf of the idol oak fades by a law of necessary consequence, having no living sap or "water" from God. So "garden" answers to "gardens" (Isa 1:29). As you have sinned under the oaks and in gardens, so you shall be made like unto oaks and gardens, not when they are green and flourishing, but when they wither and decay.

For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth,.... Shall be stripped of all their dependencies and self confidence, and be as naked and as bare as an oak that has cast its leaves; or thus, in a way of just retaliation, since they have desired oaks, and sacrificed under them, they shall be like them as in the wintertime, stripped of all their riches, honour, substance, and desirable things; see Revelation 18:12.

and as a garden that hath no water; in which the herbs and plants are dried up and withered: it signifies the uncomfortable condition such shall be in, as before.

For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.
30. To the nature worshippers themselves the falling leaf of the terebinth and the failure of the spring in the garden, would mean the decay of the divine life which was supposed to animate these objects. To Isaiah, who recognises no divine life in nature but that of Jehovah, they are simply appropriate images of the collapse of superstition.

31 refers probably (though not certainly) to idolatry in the strict sense of image-worship. the strong] Apparently “the powerful (opulent) man.” The word occurs only once again in Amos 2:9.

and the maker of it] Render with R.V. and his work, i.e. either “his idol,” or “his unrighteous work.”

they shall both burn … quench them] The “work” is a spark and the worker like tinder. The idea is that the product of sin will become the means of the sinner’s destruction.

Verse 30. - Ye shall be as an oak, etc. Contrast the case of the godly, whose "leaf shall not wither" (Psalm 1:3). Isaiah 1:30He still continues in the same excitement, piling a second explanatory sentence upon the first, and commencing this also with "for" (Chi); and then, carried away by the association of ideas, he takes terebinths and gardens as the future figures of the idolatrous people themselves. "For ye shall become like a terebinth with withered leaves, and like a garden that hath no water." Their prosperity is distroyed, so that they resemble a terebinth withered as to its leaves, which in other cases are always green (nobleth ‛aleah, genitives connection according to (Ges. 112, 2). Their sources of help are dried up, so that they are like a garden without water, and therefore waste. In this withered state terebinths and gardens, to which the idolatrous are compared, are easily set on fire. All that is wanted is a spark to kindle them, when they are immediately in flames.
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