Isaiah 10:17
And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;
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(17) And the light of Israel shall be for a fire.—The Divine glory, which is as a consuming fire (Isaiah 27:4) to the enemies of Israel, is to Israel itself as the very light of life. The “briars and thorns” (we note the recurrence of the combination of Isaiah 9:18) are the host of the Assyrian army (comp. 2Samuel 23:6; Ezekiel 2:6), as “the glory of his forest” in the next verse are the captains and princes. The emphatic “in one day” points to some great catastrophe, such as that which afterwards destroyed the army of Sennacherib.



Isaiah 10:17

With grand poetry the prophet pictures the Assyrian power as a forest consumed like thistles and briers by the fire of God. The text suggests solemn truths about the divine Nature and its manifestations.

I. The Essential Character of God.

Light and Holiness are substantially parallel. Light symbolises purity, but also knowledge and joy. Holiness is Separation from Creatures, but chiefly from their Evils.

II. The Different Attitudes which Men assume to that Character.

‘Light of Israel’: ‘His Holy One.’

God becomes ours, and we have an interest in that radiant Personality if we choose to claim it by faith, love, and obedience. We are free to accept God as ours or to reject Him.

III. The Opposite Aspects which that Character accordingly assumes.

{a} The self-same divine Character has two effects according to the character of the beholder.

To those who respond to God’s love it is-heaven. To those who are indifferent or alienated it may be pain, and will harm them if they see it and do not yield to it.

God’s holiness is not retributive justice but moral perfectness, which to a good man will be joy, and to a bad man, intolerable.

The light which is gladsome to a healthy eye is agony to a diseased one.

{b} All the manifestations and operations of that divine Character have a twofold aspect. Christ is either a stone of stumbling or a sure foundation. Men are either the better or the worse for Him. The Gospel is the savour of life unto life or of death unto death. The tremendous ‘either-or.’ The Cross rejected harms the moral nature, hardens conscience, deepens condemnation.

All divine operations are necessarily on the side of God’s lovers and against those who love Him not. They are contrary to Him, therefore He is so to them. ‘With the froward Thou wilt show Thyself froward.’

The final Judgment will be either rapture or despair, like the coming of a bridegroom, or the fiery rain that burnt up Sodom.

The very dew of Heavenly Bliss would be corroding poison to a godless spirit.10:5-19 See what a change sin made. The king of Assyria, in his pride, thought to act by his own will. The tyrants of the world are tools of Providence. God designs to correct his people for their hypocrisy, and bring them nearer to him; but is that Sennacherib's design? No; he designs to gratify his own covetousness and ambition. The Assyrian boasts what great things he has done to other nations, by his own policy and power. He knows not that it is God who makes him what he is, and puts the staff into his hand. He had done all this with ease; none moved the wing, or cried as birds do when their nests are rifled. Because he conquered Samaria, he thinks Jerusalem would fall of course. It was lamentable that Jerusalem should have set up graven images, and we cannot wonder that she was excelled in them by the heathen. But is it not equally foolish for Christians to emulate the people of the world in vanities, instead of keeping to things which are their special honour? For a tool to boast, or to strive against him that formed it, would not be more out of the way, than for Sennacherib to vaunt himself against Jehovah. When God brings his people into trouble, it is to bring sin to their remembrance, and humble them, and to awaken them to a sense of their duty; this must be the fruit, even the taking away of sin. When these points are gained by the affliction, it shall be removed in mercy. This attempt upon Zion and Jerusalem should come to nothing. God will be as a fire to consume the workers of iniquity, both soul and body. The desolation should be as when a standard-bearer fainteth, and those who follow are put to confusion. Who is able to stand before this great and holy Lord God?And the light of Israel - That is, Yahweh. The word "light" here, אור 'ôr, is used also to denote a "fire," or that which causes light and heat; see Ezekiel 5:2; Isaiah 44:16; Isaiah 47:14. Here it is used in the same sense, denoting that Yahweh would be "the fire" אור 'ôr that would cause the "flame" (אשׁ 'êsh) which would consume the Assyrian. Jehovah is often compared to a burning flame, or fire; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; Hebrews 12:29.

Shall be for a fire - By his power and his judgment he shall destroy them.

His Holy One - Israel's Holy One; that is, Yahweh - often called in the Scriptures the Holy One of Israel.

And it shall burn - That is, the flame that Yahweh shall kindle, or his judgments that he shall send forth.

And devour his thorns and his briers - An expression denoting the utter impotency of all the mighty armies of the Assyrian to resist Yahweh. As dry thorns and briers cannot resist the action of heat, so certainly and speedily would the armies of Sennacherib be destroyed before Yahweh; compare the note at Isaiah 9:18. Lowth supposes, that by 'briers and thorns' here, the common soldiers of the army are intended, and by 'the glory of his forest' Isaiah 10:18, the princes, officers, and nobles. This is, doubtless, the correct interpretation; and the idea is, that all would be completely consumed and destroyed.

In one day - The army of Sennacherib was suddenly destroyed by the angel; see the notes at Isaiah 37:36.

17, 18. light of Israel—carrying out the image in the end of Isa 10:16. Jehovah, who is a light to Israel, shall be the "fire" (De 4:24; Heb 12:29) that shall ignite the "thorns," (the Assyrians, like dry fuel, a ready prey to flame). The light of Israel, that God who is and will be a comfortable light to his people,

shall be for a fire to the Assyrians who shall have heat without light, as it is in hell.

His thorns and briers; his vast army, which is no more able to resist God, than dry thorns and briers are to oppose the fire which is kindled among them. And the light of Israel shall be for a fire,.... That is, the Lord, who is the light of his people; who enlightens them by his word and Spirit, and by his grace effectually calls them out of darkness into marvellous light, to the light of grace here, and to the light of glory hereafter; and who comforts and refreshes them with his gracious presence, and with the light of his countenance when in affliction and distress, which is sometimes signified by darkness; and the same Lord, who is as light to his people, and gives light and comfort to them, is as a consuming fire to others:

and his Holy One for a flame; that is, the Holy One of Israel, the God of Israel, who is holy in himself, and the sanctifier of others; the Syriac version reads, "his Holy Ones": so Jarchi observes it as the sense of some, that the righteous of that generation are meant; the Targum is,

"and there shall be the Lord, the light of Israel, and his Holy One; and his word strong as fire, and his word as a flame;''

see Jeremiah 23:29 so Jarchi interprets it of the law Hezekiah studied:

and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; the Targum interprets it, his rulers and governors; and so Jarchi, his princes and mighty men; the chief in the Assyrian army, called briers and thorns, because mischievous and hurtful, and caused grief; but rather the multitude of the common soldiers is designed, who were all destroyed in one night, 2 Kings 19:35 by an angel; who, according to Aben Ezra, is the light and Holy One of Israel here spoken of.

And the light of Israel shall be for a {l} fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour {m} his thorns and his briers in one day;

(l) Meaning that God is a light to comfort his people and a fire to burn his enemies.

(m) That is, the Assyrians.

Verse 17. - The light of Israel. A new name of God. The idea on which it is based may be found in the Psalms (Psalm 27:1; Psalm 84:11), and again in Isaiah (Isaiah 60:19). God enlightens his people, cheers them, comforts them spiritually, as the light of the sun enlightens, cheers, and comforts men physically. Christ, as true God, is "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). Shall be for a fire. As the same material fire which gives light, warmth, and comfort may burn and destroy, so the spiritual light, finding fit material, scorches and consumes. The fire which devours Assyria is to be kindled by God. His Holy One; i.e. "the Holy One of Israel" (see Isaiah 1:4). It shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers. The destruction of Assyria shall resemble that of Israel, in which Assyria was the instrument (Isaiah 9:18). It shall be as complete, as terrible, and as final. In one day. Scarcely "in one battle" (Cheyne); for the destruction of Assyria was effected by many battles, many sieges, and much exhausting ravage. "In one day" rather means "at one and the same time," "within a brief space." It is not to he taken literally. Asshur was to be an instrument of divine wrath upon all Israel; but it would exalt itself, and make itself the end instead of the means. Isaiah 10:7 "Nevertheless he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; for it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few." Asshur did not think so (lo'-cēn), i.e., not as he ought to think, seeing that his power over Israel was determined by Jehovah Himself. For what filled his heart was the endeavour, peculiar to the imperial power, to destroy not a few nations, i.e., as many nations as possible, for the purpose of extending his own dominions, and with the determination to tolerate no other independent nation, and the desire to deal with Judah as with all the rest. For Jehovah was nothing more in his esteem than one of the idols of the nations. Isaiah 10:8-11 "For he saith, Are not my generals all kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish, or Hamath as Arpad, or Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath reached the kingdoms of the idols, and their graven images were more than those of Jerusalem and Samaria; shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, do likewise to Jerusalem and her idols?" The king of Asshur bore the title of the great king (Isaiah 36:4), and indeed, as we may infer from Ezekiel 26:7, that of the king of kings. The generals in his army he could call kings,

(Note: The question is expressed in Hebrew phraseology, since sar in Assyrian was a superior title to that of melek, as we may see from inscriptions and proper names.)

because the satraps

(Note: Satrapes is the old Persian (arrow-headed) khshatra (Sanscr. xatra) pâvan, i.e., keeper of government. Pâvan (nom. pâvâ), which occurs in the Zendik as an independent word pavan (nom. pavao) in the sense of sentry or watchman, is probably the original of the Hebrew pechâh (see Spiegel, in Kohler on Malachi 1:8).)

who led their several contingents were equal to kings in the extent and splendour of their government, and some of them were really conquered kings (cf., 2 Kings 25:28). He proudly asks whether every one of the cities named has not been as incapable as the rest, of offering a successful resistance to him. Carchemish is the later Circesium (Cercusium), at the junction of the Chaboras with the Euphrates (see above); Calno, the later Ctesiphon, on the left bank of the Tigris; Arpad (according to Mershid, i. p. 47, in the pashalic of Chaleb, i.e., Aleppo) and Hamath (i.e., Epiphania) were Syrian cities, the latter on the river Orontes, still a large and wealthy place. The king of Asshur had also already conquered Samaria, at the time when the prophet introduced him as uttering these words. Jerusalem, therefore, would be unable to resist him. As he had obtained possession of idolatrous kingdoms (ל מעא, to reach, as in Psalm 21:9 : hâ-'elil with the article indicating the genus), which had more idols than Jerusalem or than Samaria; so would he also overcome Jerusalem, which had just as few and just as powerless idols as Samaria had. Observe there that Isaiah 10:11 is the apodosis to Isaiah 10:10, and that the comparative clause of Isaiah 10:10 is repeated in Isaiah 10:11, for the purpose of instituting a comparison, more especially with Samaria and Jerusalem. The king of Asshur calls the gods of the nations by the simple name of idols, though the prophet does not therefore make him speak from his own Israelitish standpoint. On the contrary, the great sin of the king of Asshur consisted in the manner in which he spoke. For since he recognised no other gods than his own Assyrian national deities, he placed Jehovah among the idols of the nations, and, what ought particularly to be observed, with the other idols, whose worship had been introduced into Samaria and Jerusalem. But in this very fact there was so far consolation for the worshippers of Jehovah, that such blasphemy of the one living God would not remain unavenged; whilst for the worshipers of idols it contained a painful lesson, since their gods really deserved nothing better than that contempt should be heaped upon them. The prophet has now described the sin of Asshur. It was ambitious self-exaltation above Jehovah, amounting even to blasphemy. And yet he was only the staff of Jehovah, who could make use of him as He would.

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