As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols.—The word “idols” seems hardly appropriate as a word of scorn in the mouth of an idolatrous king; but Isaiah probably puts into his lips the words which he himself would have used. It is, however, quite in character with the Assyrian inscriptions that Sargon should ascribe his victories to Asshur as the Supreme God, before whose sovereignty all local deities were compelled to bow. To the Assyrian king the name of Jehovah would represent a deity whose power was to be measured by the greatness of the nation that worshipped Him, and inferior, therefore, to the gods of Carchemish or Hamath. The worship of Baal, Moloch, and other deities, in both Israel and Judah, had of course tended to strengthen this estimate. (Comp. Rabshakeh’s language in Isaiah 36:18-19.)2 Kings 19:12 : 'Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my father destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden, which were in Thelasar?' Isaiah 36:18-20 : 'Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and of Arphad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? And have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?'
Hath found - That is, 'I have found them unable to defend themselves by their trust in their idols, and have subdued them.'
The kingdoms of the idols - The kingdoms that worship idols.
And whose graven images - That is, whose idols; or whose representations of the gods. The word properly signifies that which is hewn or cut out; and then the block of wood, or stone, that is carved into an image of the god. Here it, refers to the gods themselves, probably, as having been found to be impotent, though he supposed them to be more powerful that those of Jerusalem and Samaria.
Did excel - Hebrew, 'More than Jerusalem,' where the inseperable preposition מ m, is used to denote comparison. They were "more" to be dreaded; or more mighty than those of Jerusalem.
Of Jerusalem - Jerusalem and Samaria had often been guilty of the worship of idols; and it is probable that Sennacherib regarded them as idolaters in the same sense as other nations. They had given occasion for this suspicion by their having often fallen into idolatrous habits; and the Assyrian monarch did not regard them as in any manner distinguished from surrounding nations. It is not improbable that he was aware that Jerusalem worshipped Yahweh (compare Isaiah 36:20); but he doubtless regarded Yahweh as a mere tutelary divinity - the special god of that land, as Baal, Ashtaroth, etc., were of the countries in which they were adored. For it was a common doctrine among ancient idolaters, that each nation had its special god; that the claims of that god were to be respected and regarded in that nation; and that thus all nations should worship their own gods undisturbed. Yahweh was thus regarded as the tutelary god of the Jewish nation. The sin of Sennacherib consisted in confounding Yahweh with false gods, and in then setting him at defiance.
and whose—rather, "and their." This clause, down to "Samaria," is parenthetical.
excel—were more powerful. He regards Jerusalem as idolatrous, an opinion which it often had given too much ground for: Jehovah was in his view the mere local god of Judea, as Baal of the countries where it was adored, nay, inferior in power to some national gods (Isa 36:19, 20; 37:12). See in opposition, Isa 37:20; 46:1.
As my hand … shall I not, as I have—a double protasis. Agitation makes one accumulate sentences.Hath found, i.e. hath taken, as this word is used, Proverbs 1:13, and oft elsewhere, the antecedent being put for the consequent, because what men find they commonly take to themselves.
The kingdoms of the idols; which worshipped their own proper idols, and vainly imagined that they could protect them from power. He calls the gods of the several nations, not excepting Jerusalem, idols, by way of contempt, because none of them could deliver their people out of his hands, as he brags, Isaiah 37:11,12, and because he judged them to be but petty gods, far inferior to the sun, which was the great god of the Assyrians.
Excel them, to wit, in reputation and strength; which blasphemy of his proceeded from his deep ignorance of the true God.
And whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; being made of better metal, or more richly ornamented, or worshipped in a more pompous manner; or were "more" than they of Jerusalem and Samaria, exceeded them in number; or were "stronger" and mightier than they, as Kimchi supplies it, and yet could not protect them; or were "from Jerusalem, and from Samaria"; the wicked men of Israel, Jarchi says, supplied all the nations with images, they all sprung from them; and if the idols which came from hence could not secure the nations of the earth from falling into the hands of the Assyrian monarch, neither could they preserve Jerusalem and Samaria from being taken by him.As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. the kingdoms of the idols] The expression “nonentities” (see on ch. Isaiah 2:8) is surprising in the mouth of the Assyrian; but not inappropriate, since even from his point of view the overthrow of so many kingdoms might seem a demonstration of the non-entity of their gods as compared with the solitary might of Asshur.
and whose graven images, &c.] A circumstantial clause: although their images, &c.
did excel] “were more than,” either in number or importance. The Assyrian is after all an idolater at heart, measuring the prestige of a god by the multitude and excellence of his graven images.Verse 10. - As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols. "Found" here means "reached," "punished... subjugated." It is quite in accordance with Assyrian ideas that the conquered countries should be called "kingdoms of the idols" (literally, "no gods"). The Assyrian monarchs regarded their own gods as alone really deserving of the name, and made war very much with the object of proving the superiority of their deities over those of their neighbors. Hence their practice of carrying off the idols from the various cities which they conquered, or else of inscribing on them "the praises of Asshur." And whose graven images; rather, and their graven images. Did excel. In preciousness of material or in workmanship, or both. The Assyrians went near to identifying the idols with the gods themselves. Those of Jerusalem and of Samaria. The chief Samaritan idols were the golden calves at Dan and Bethel; but, in addition to these, "images and groves were set up in every high hill and under every green tree" (2 Kings 17:10), images of Baal, and Ashtoreth, and perhaps Beltis, and Chemosh, and Moloch. Even in Judah and in Jerusalem itself there were idols. Ahaz "made molten images for Baalim" (2 Chronicles 28:2). The brazen serpent was worshipped as an idol at Jerusalem until Hezekiah destroyed it; and probably, even after the reformation of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4), many Jews retained privately the images, which he required them to destroy (2 Chronicles 31:1). Isaiah had already declared, speaking of Judah rather than of Israel, "Their land is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made" (Isaiah 2:8). Isaiah 30:8; Job 19:23); and Cittēb (piel only occurring here, and a perfect, according to Gesenius, 126, 3) their official signing and writing. Their decrees are Chikekē 'aven (an open plural, as in Judges 5:15, for Chukkē, after the analogy of גללי, עממי, with an absolute Chăkâkim underlying it: Ewald, 186-7), inasmuch as their contents were worthlessness, i.e., the direct opposite of morality; and what they wrote out was ‛âmâl, trouble, i.e., an unjust oppression of the people (compare πόνος and πονηρός).
(Note: The current accentuation, ומכתבים mercha, עמל tiphchah, is wrong. The true accentuation would be the former with tiphchah (and metheg), the latter with mercha; for ‛âmâl cittēbu is an attributive (an elliptical relative) clause. According to its etymon, ‛âmâl seems to stand by the side of μῶλος, moles, molestus (see Pott in Kuhn's Zeitschrift, ix. 202); but within the Semitic itself it stands by the side of אמל, to fade, marcescere, which coincides with the Sanscrit root mlâ and its cognates (see Leo Meyer, Vergleichende Grammatik, i. 353), so that ‛âmâl is, strictly speaking, to wear out or tire out (vulg. to worry).)
Poor persons who wanted to commence legal proceedings were not even allowed to do so, and possessions to which widows and orphans had a well-founded claim were a welcome booty to them (for the diversion into the finite verb, see Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 8:11; Isaiah 49:5; Isaiah 58:5). For all this they could not escape the judgment of God. This is announced to them in Isaiah 10:3, in the form of three distinct questions (commencing with ūmâh, quid igitur). The noun pekuddah in the first question always signifies simply a visitation of punishment; sho'âh is a confused, dull, desolate rumbling, hence confusion (turba), desolation: here it is described as "coming from afar," because a distant nation (Asshur) was the instrument of God's wrath. Second question: "Upon whom will ye throw yourselves in your search for help then" (nūs ‛al, a constr. praegnans, only met with here)? Third question: "Where, i.e., in whose hand, will ye deposit your wealth in money and possessions" (câbōd, what is weighty in value and imposing in appearance); ‛âzab with b'yad (Genesis 39:6), or with Lamed (Job 39:14), to leave anything with a person as property in trust. No one would relieve them of their wealth, and hold it as a deposit; it was irrecoverably lost. To this negative answer there is appended the following bilti, which, when used as a preposition after a previous negation, signifies praeter; when used as a conjunction, nisi (bilti 'im, Judges 7:14); and where it governs the whole sentence, as in this case, nisi quod (cf., Numbers 11:6; Daniel 11:18). In the present instance, where the previous negation is to be supplied in thought, it has the force of nil reliquum est nisi quod (there is nothing left but). The singular verb (câra‛) is used contemptuously, embracing all the high persons as one condensed mass; and tachath does not mean aeque ac or loco (like, or in the place of), as Ewald (217, k) maintains, but is used in the primary and local sense of infra (below). Some crouch down to find room at the feet of the prisoners, who are crowded closely together in the prison; or if we suppose the prophet to have a scene of transportation in his mind, they sink down under the feet of the other prisoners, in their inability to bear such hardships, whilst the rest fall in war; and as the slaughter is of long duration, not only become corpses themselves, but are covered with corpses of the slain (cf., Isaiah 14:19). And even with this the wrath of God is not satisfied. The prophet, however, does not follow out the terrible gradation any further. Moreover, the captivity, to which this fourth strophe points, actually formed the conclusion of a distinct period.
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