Isaiah 1:7
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
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(7) Your country is desolate . . .—It is natural to take the words as describing the actual state of things when the prophet wrote. There had been such invasions in the days of Ahaz, in which Israel and Syria (Isaiah 7:1), Edom and the Philistines, had been conspicuous (2Chronicles 28:17-18); and the reign of Hezekiah already had witnessed that of Sargon (Isaiah 20:1).

The Hebrew has no copulative verb, but joins subject and predicate together with the emphasis of abruptness: Your landa desolation, and so on. The repetition of the word “strangers” is characteristic of Isaiah’s style.

As overthrown by strangers.—Conjectural readings give (1) “as the overthrow of Sodom;” (2) “as the overthrow of (i.e., wrought by) a rain-storm.” The word rendered “overthrown” is elsewhere applied only to the destruction of the cities of the plain (Deuteronomy 29:23; Amos 4:11; Jeremiah 49:18). So taken, the clause prepares the way for the fuller comparison of Isaiah 1:9-10.

Isaiah 1:7-8. Your country is desolate — “The description of the ruined and desolate state of the country, in these verses,” says Bishop Lowth, “does not suit with any part of the prosperous times of Uzziah and Jotham. It very well agrees with the time of Ahaz, when Judea was ravaged by the joint invasion of the Israelites and Syrians, and by the incursions of the Philistines and Edomites. The date of this prophecy is therefore generally fixed to the time of Ahaz.” Strangers devour it in your presence — Which your eyes see to torment you, when there is no power in your hands to deliver you. As overthrown, &c. — כמהפכת, as the overthrow; of strangers — That is, such as strangers bring upon a land which is not likely to continue in their hands, and therefore they spare no persons; and spoil and destroy all things, which is not usually done in wars between persons of the same or of a neighbouring nation. And the daughter of Zion is left — Is left solitary, all the neighbouring villages and country round about it being laid waste. As a cottage — Or, as a shed in a vineyard, as Bishop Lowth translates it, namely, “a little temporary hut, covered with boughs, straw, turf, or the like materials, for a shelter from the heat by day, and the cold and dews by night, for the watchman that kept the garden, or vineyard, during the short season while the fruit was ripening; see Job 27:18; and presently removed when it had served that purpose.” — See Harmer, Observ. 1:454.

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.Your country is desolate - This is the literal statement of what he had just affirmed by a figure. In this there was much art. The figure Isaiah 1:6 was striking. The resemblance between a man severely beaten, and entirely livid and sore, and a land perfectly desolate, was so impressive as to arrest the attention. This had been threatened as one of the curses which should attend disobedience; Leviticus 26:33 :

And I will scatter you among the heathen,

And will draw out a sword after you:

And your land shall be desolate,

And your cities waste.

Compare Isaiah 1:31; Deuteronomy 28:49-52. It is not certain, or agreed among expositors, to what time the prophet refers in this passage. Some have supposed that he refers to the time of Ahaz, and to the calamities which came upon the nation during his reign; 2 Chronicles 28:5-8. But the probability is, that this refers to the time of Uzziah; see the Analysis of the chapter. The reign of Uzziah was indeed prosperous; 2 Chronicles 26. But it is to be remembered that the land had been ravaged just before, under the reigns of Joash and Amaziah, by the kings of Syria and Israel; 2 Kings 14:8-14; 2 Chronicles 24; 25; and it is by no means probable that it had recovered in the time of Uzziah. It was lying under the effect of the former desolation, and not improbably the enemies of the Jews were even then hovering around it, and possibly still in the very midst of it. The kingdom was going to decay, and the reign of Uzziah gave it only a temporary prosperity.

Is desolate - Hebrew: "Is desolation." שׁממה shemâmâh. This is a Hebrew mode of emphatic expression, denoting that the desolation was so universal that the land might be said to be entirely in ruins.

Your land - That is, the fruit, or productions of the land. Foreigners consume all that it produces.

Strangers - זרים zâryı̂m, from זור zûr, to be alienated, or estranged, Isaiah 1:4. It is applied to foreigners, that is, those who were not Israelites, Exodus 30:33; and is often used to denote an enemy, a foe, a barbarian; Psalm 109:11 :

Let the extortioner catch all that he hath,

And let the strangers plunder his labor.

Ezekiel 11:9; Ezekiel 28:10; Ezekiel 30:12; Hosea 7:9; Hosea 8:7. The word refers here particularly to the Syrians.

Devour it - Consume its provisions.

In your presence - This is a circumstance that greatly heightens the calamity, that they were compelled to look on and witness the desolation, without being able to prevent it.


7. Judah had not in Uzziah's reign recovered from the ravages of the Syrians in Joash's reign (2Ch 24:24), and of Israel in Amaziah's reign (2Ch 25:13, 23, &c.). Compare Isaiah's contemporary (Am 4:6-11), where, as here (Isa 1:9, 10), Israel is compared to "Sodom and Gomorrah," because of the judgments on it by "fire."

in your presence—before your eyes: without your being able to prevent them.

desolate, &c.—literally, "there is desolation, such as one might look for from foreign" invaders.

All this and what follows was verified in the days of king Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 28, in whose time, and upon which occasion, this prophecy seems to have been delivered, as more exactly agreeing with that time than with any other. If any object, that this being the first of his prophecies, must rather belong to the days of Uzziah, they must take notice, and it is agreed by interpreters, and it is undeniably true, that the prophecies of Isaiah, as also of the other prophets, are not set down in the same order in which they were delivered, but oftentimes the latter are put before the former.

In your presence; which your eyes shall see to torment you, when there is no power in your hands to deliver you.

As overthrown by strangers, Heb, as the overthrow of strangers, i.e. which strangers bring upon a land which is not theirs, nor likely to continue in their hands, and therefore they spare no persons that come in their way, and they spoil and destroy all things, which is not usually done in wars between persons of the same or of a neighbour nation.

Your country is desolate,.... Or "shall be"; this is either a declaration in proper terms of what is before figuratively expressed, or rather a prophecy of what would be their case on account of transgressions; and which had its accomplishment partly in the Babylonish captivity, and fully in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; when not only their city and temple, called their house, Matthew 23:38, were left unto them desolate, but the whole land; and they were carried captive, and scattered among the nations, where they have been ever since:

your cities are, or shall be,

burned with fire; as, Jerusalem has been, and other cities in Judea, Matthew 22:7.

your land, strangers devour it in your presence; before their eyes, and it would not be in their power to prevent it; meaning either the Babylonians or the Romans, or both, and especially the latter, who were strangers and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel:

and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers; who ravage, plunder, and destroy all they meet with, and spare nothing, not intending to settle there, as those who are near do, when they conquer a neighbouring nation. Some think this prophecy was delivered in the times of Ahaz, and refers to the desolation in his time, 2 Chronicles 28:17 but rather, as Joel and Amos prophesied before Isaiah, he may refer to those desolating judgments, they speak of, by the locusts, caterpillars, and fire, Joel 1:4 but to consider the words as a prediction of what should be in after times seems best; and so the Arabic version reads the words, "your land shall be desolate, your cities shall be burnt with fire, and your country strangers shall devour before you"; or shall be as overthrown by strangers, being overflown with a flood or storm of rain; so Abendana (d).

(d) As if it was which signifies a flood, or overflowing of water, Habakkuk 3.10. to which sense Aben Ezra inclines; so Schultens in Job 24.8.

Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, foreigners devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by {n} foreigners.

(n) Meaning, of them who dwell far off, who because they look for no advantage of that which remains destroy all before them.

7. The situation here described (which was undoubtedly present at the time of utterance) is that of a land ravaged by foreign troops (land is “cultivated land”). It has been contended that the word strangers (foreigners) must refer to the Assyrians, and could not be used of the allied Syrians and Ephraimites. But there seems no good reason why an army mainly composed of Syrians should not be designated as “foreigners.”

and it is desolate … strangers] Lit., “and a desolation like an overthrow of strangers.” If the text is sound it must mean “is such an overthrow as might be expected at the hands of strangers” (the so-called Kaph veritatis). This is a weak sense; and hence Ewald’s plausible emendation, “like the overthrow of Sodom,” has been accepted by most subsequent writers. The word for “overthrow” never occurs elsewhere except in connexion with Sodom (ch. Isaiah 13:19; Deuteronomy 29:23; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40; Amos 4:11).

Verse 7. - Your country is desolate. Metaphor is now dropped, and the prophet describes in strong but simple language the judgments of God, which have already followed the sins of the nation. First of all, their land is "a desolation." It has been recently ravaged by an enemy; the towns have been burnt, the crops devoured. There is nothing to determine who the enemy had been. Knobel supposes the Edomites and Philistines, who invaded Judaea in the time of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:17, 18), to be intended; Rosenmüller suggests the Israelites under Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:21-24); while Mr. Cheyne supposes the devastation to have been wrought by the Assyrians under Sargon. If we could be assured that the prophecies of Isaiah are arranged in chronological order, we should either have to accept Rosenmüller's view, or to suppose some invasion of Judaea to have taken place in the later years of Uzziah of which no mention is made by the authors of Kings and Chronicles; but it is impossible to be certain on what principle Isaiah's prophecies are arranged. The mention of "strangers" is in favor of the enemy having been actual foreigners, and therefore not the Israelites. Your cities are burned with fire. The common fate of cities taken in war. In the Assyrian sculptures we often see the torch applied to them. Your land. Mr. Cheyne translates, "your tillage." Adamah means "soil" or "ground" generally; but here no doubt denotes the ground which bore crops. Strangers devour it; i.e. "foreigners" others than the sons of the soil - not necessarily persons of a different race, but still probably such persons. In your presence; before your eyes, as you look on - an aggravation of the affliction. It is desolate, as overthrown by strangers; literally, it is a desolation, like an overthrow by strangers. The near approach to repetition displeases moderns, who conjecture

(1) that zarim, strangers, has another meaning, and should be here translated by "inundation" or "deluge" (Aben Ezra, Michaelis, Lowth); or

(2) that it is a wrong reading, and should Be altered into sodim, a word not very different (Ewald, Cheyne). But "the return to words whose sounds are yet lingering in the ear" is characteristic of ancient writing, and a favorite practice of Isaiah's (Kay). The translation of the Authorized Version may therefore stand. Isaiah 1:7This is described more particularly in Isaiah 1:7, which commences with the most general view, and returns to it again at the close."Your land ... a desert; your cities ... burned with fire; your field ... foreigners consuming it before your eyes, and a desert like overthrowing by strangers." Caspari has pointed out, in his Introduction to the Book of Isaiah, how nearly every word corresponds to the curses threatened in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 (29); Micah 6:13-16 and Jeremiah 5:15. stand in the very same relation to these sections of the Pentateuch. From the time of Isaiah downwards, the state of Israel was a perfect realization of the curses of the law. The prophet intentionally employs the words of the law to describe his own times; he designates the enemy, who devastated the land, reduced its towers to ashes, and took possession of its crops, by the simple term zarim, foreigners or barbarians (a word which would have the very same meaning if it were really the reduplication of the Aramaean bar; compare the Syriac barōye, a foreigner), without mentioning their particular nationality. He abstracts himself from the definite historical present, in order that he may point out all the more emphatically how thoroughly it bears the character of the fore-ordained curse. The most emphatic indication of this was to be found in the fact, which the clause at the close of Isaiah 1:7 palindromically affirms, that a desolation had been brought about "like the overthrow of foreigners." The repetition of a catchword like zarim (foreigners) at the close of the v. in this emphatic manner, is a figure of speech, called epanaphora, peculiar to the two halves of our collection. The question arises, however, whether zarim is to be regarded as the genitive of the subject, as Caspari, Knobel, and others suppose, "such an overthrow as is commonly produced by barbarians" (cf., 2 Samuel 10:3, where the verb occurs), or as the genitive of the object, "such an overthrow as comes upon barbarians." As mahpechâh (overthrow) is used in other places in which it occurs to denote the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., according to the primary passage, Deuteronomy 29:22, and Isaiah had evidently also this catastrophe in his mind, as Isaiah 1:8 clearly shows; we decide in favour of the conclusion that zârim is the genitive of the object (cf., Amos 4:11). The force of the comparison is also more obvious, if we understand the words in this sense. The desolation which had fallen upon the land of the people of God resembled that thorough desolation (subversio) with which God visited the nations outside the covenant, who, like the people of the Pentapolis, were swept from off the earth without leaving a trace behind. But although there was similarity, there was not sameness, as Isaiah 1:8, Isaiah 1:9 distinctly affirm. Jerusalem itself was still preserved; but in how pitiable a condition! There can be no doubt that bath-Zion ("daughter of Zion," Eng. ver.) in Isaiah 1:8 signifies Jerusalem. The genitive in this case is a genitive of apposition: "daughter Zion," not "daughter of Zion" (cf., Isaiah 37:22 : see Ges. 116, 5). Zion itself is represented as a daughter, i.e., as a woman. The expression applied primarily to the community dwelling around the fortress of Zion, to which the individual inhabitants stood in the same relation as children to a mother, inasmuch as the community sees its members for the time being come into existence and grow: they are born within her, and, as it were, born and brought up by her. It was then applied secondarily to the city itself, with or without the inhabitants (cf., Jeremiah 46:19; Jeremiah 48:18; Zechariah 2:11). In this instance the latter are included, as Isaiah 1:9 clearly shows. This is precisely the point in the first two comparisons.
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