And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Isaiah 10:18-19.
With iron - As a forest is cut down with an axe, so the prophet uses this phrase here, to keep up and carry out the figure. The army was destroyed with the pestilence 2 Kings 19:35; but it fell as certainly as a forest falls before the axe.
And Lebanon - Lebanon is here evidently descriptive of the army of the Assyrian, retaining the idea of a beautiful and magnificent forest. Thus, in Ezekiel 31:3, it is said, 'the king of the Assyrians was a cedar of Lebanon with fair branches.' Lebanon is usually applied to the Jews as descriptive of them (Jeremiah 22:6, Jeremiah 22:23; Zechariah 10:10; Zechariah 11:l), but it is evidently applied here to the Assyrian army; and the sense is, that that army should be soon and certainly destroyed, and that, therefore, the inhabitants of Jerusalem had no cause of alarm; see the notes at Isaiah 37.With iron; or, as with iron, as the trees of the forest are cut down by instruments of iron.
And Lebanon; or, his Lebanon, the pronoun being oft understood in the Hebrew text; the Assyrian army, which being before compared to a forest or wood, and being called his Carmel in the Hebrew text, Isaiah 10:18, may very fitly, upon the same ground, be called his Lebanon here; especially considering that the king of Assyria is called a cedar of Lebanon, Ezekiel 31:3.
By a mighty one; by a mighty angel, Isaiah 37:36.
and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one; the Assyrian army is compared to the forest of Lebanon, for the multitude of trees in it, and the tallness of its cedars, it abounding not only with common soldiers, but with great men; so it is compared to a forest, and to Carmel, or a fruitful field, in Isaiah 10:18 and the Assyrian monarch is said to be a cedar in Lebanon, Ezekiel 31:3 which fell by the hands of one of the mighty angels, 2 Kings 19:35 some, because of this last clause, think that this and the preceding verse Isaiah 10:33 are to be understood of the calamities that should come upon the Jews, at the time of the Babylonish captivity; for though Sennacherib should stop at Nob; and proceed no further, however should not be able to take Jerusalem, yet hereafter a successor of his should; and, according to this sense, by the "bough" lopped may be meant Jeconiah, or Zedekiah king of Judah; by the "high ones of stature", and the "haughty" ones, his children, the princes of the blood, and the nobles of the land; and by the "thickets of the forest", the common people, who were either killed or carried captive; and by Lebanon, the temple, Zechariah 11:1 and by the "mighty one", Nebuchadnezzar that burnt it. And some of the ancient Jews interpret this last clause of the destruction of the temple by Vespasian; they observe upon this passage in one place (m), there is no mighty one but a king, as in Jeremiah 30:21 and there is no Lebanon but the house of the sanctuary, according to Deuteronomy 3:25 wherefore when a certain Jew saluted Vespasian as a king, and he replied that he was no king, the Jew made answer, if thou art not a king, thou shall be one; for this house (meaning the temple) shall not be destroyed but by the hands of a king, as it is said, "and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one" (n).And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 34. - He shall cut down; or, one shall eat down; Jehovah being, no doubt, intended. Lebanon (comp. Ezekiel 31:3, "Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon"). Here the comparison is enlarged, and Assyria appears as Lebanon itself with all its cedar woods. By a mighty one; rather, a glorious one (comp. Isaiah 33:21, where the word here used - adir - is an epithet of Jehovah).
Isaiah 10:28Aesthetically considered, the description is one of the most magnificent that human poetry has ever produced. "He comes upon Ayyath, passes through Migron; in Michmash he leaves his baggage. They go through the pass: let Geba be our quarters for the night! Ramah trembles; Gibeah of Saul flees. Scream aloud, O daughter of Gallim! Only listen, O Laysha! Poor Anathoth! Madmenah hurries away; the inhabitants of Gebim rescue. He still halts in Nob today; swings his hand over the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. Behold, the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, lops down the branches with terrific force; and those of towering growth are hewn down, and the lofty are humbled. And He fells the thickets of the forest with iron; and Lebanon, it falls by a Majestic One." When the Assyrian came upon Ayyath ( equals Ayyah, 1 Chronicles 7:28 (?), Nehemiah 11:31, generally hâ-‛ai, or 'Ai), about thirty miles to the north-east of Jerusalem, he trod for the first time upon Benjaminitish territory, which was under the sway of Judaea. The name of this 'Ai, which signifies "stone-heap," tallies, as Knobel observes, with the name of the Tell el-hagar, which is situated about three-quarters of an hour to the south-east of Beitn, i.e., Bethel. But there are tombs, reservoirs, and ruins to be seen about an hour to the south-east of Beitin; and these Robinson associates with Ai. From Ai, however, the army will not proceed towards Jerusalem by the ordinary route, viz., the great north road (or "Nablus road"); but, in order to surprise Jerusalem, it takes a different route, in which it will have to cross three deep and difficult valleys. From Ai they pass to Migron, the name of which has apparently been preserved in the ruins of Burg Magrun, situated about eight minutes' walk from Beitn.
(Note: I also find the name written Magrum (read Magrun), which is probably taken from a more correct hearsay than the Machrn of Robinson (ii.127).)
Michmash is still to be found in the form of a deserted village with ruins, under the name of Muchms, on the eastern side of the valley of Migron. Here they deposit their baggage (hiphkid, Jeremiah 36:20), so far as they are able to dispense with it - either to leave it lying there, or to have it conveyed after them by an easier route. For they proceed thence through the pass of Michmash, a deep and precipitous ravine about forty-eight minutes in breadth, the present Wady Suweinit. "The pass" (ma‛bârâh) is the defile of Michmash, with two prominent rocky cliffs, where Jonathan had his adventure with the garrison of the Philistines. One of these cliffs was called Seneh (1 Samuel 14:4), a name which suggests es-Suweinit. Through this defile they pass, encouraging one another, as they proceed along the difficult march, by the prospect of passing the night in Geba, which is close at hand. It is still disputed whether this Geba is the same place as the following Gibeah of Saul or not. There is at the present time a village called Geba' below Muchms, situated upon an eminence. The almost universal opinion now is, that this is not Gibeah of Saul, but that the latter is to be seen in the prominent Tell (Tuleil) el-Fl, which is situated farther south. This is possibly correct.
(Note: This is supported by Robinson in his Later Biblical Researches in Palestine (1857), by Valentiner (pastor at Jerusalem), and by Keil in the Commentary on Joshua, Judges, etc. (Joshua 18:21-28), where all the more recent writings on this topographical question are given.)
For there can be no doubt that this mountain, the name of which signifies "Bean-hill," would be a very strong position, and one very suitable for Gibeah of Saul; and the supposition that there were two places in Benjamin named Geba, Gibeah, or Gibeath, is favoured at any rate by Joshua 18:21-28, where Geba and Gibeath are distinguished from one another. And this mountain, which is situated to the south of er-Rm - that is to say, between the ancient Ramah and Anathoth - tallies very well with the route of the Assyrian as here described; whilst it is very improbable that Isaiah has designated the very same place first of all Geba, and then (for what reason no one can tell) Gibeah of Saul. We therefore adopt the view, that the Assyrian army took up its quarters for the night at Geba, which still bears this name, spreading terror in all directions, both east and west, and still more towards the south. Starting in the morning from the deep valley between Michmash and Geba, they pass on one side of Rama (the present er-Rm), situated half an hour to the west of Geba, which trembles as it sees them go by; and the inhabitants of Gibeath of Saul, upon the "Bean-hill," a height that commands the whole of the surrounding country, take to flight when they pass by. Every halting-place on their route brings them nearer to Jerusalem. The prophet goes in spirit through it all. It is so objectively real to him, that it produces the utmost anxiety and pain. The cities and villages of the district are lost.
He appeals to the daughter, i.e., the population, of Gallim, to raise a far-sounding yell of lamentation with their voice (Ges. 138, 1, Anm. 3), and calls out in deep sympathy to Laysha, which was close by (on the two places, both of which have vanished now, see 1 Samuel 25:44 and Judges 18:29), "only listen," the enemy is coming nearer and nearer; and then for Anathoth (‛Anâtâ, still to be seen about an hour and a quarter to the north of Jerusalem) he utters this lamentation (taking the name as an omen of its fate): O poor Anathoth! There is no necessity for any alteration of the text; ‛anniyâh is an appeal, or rather an exclamation, as in Isaiah 54:11; and ‛anâthoth follows, according to the same verbal order as in Isaiah 23:12, unless indeed we take it at once as an adjective written before the noun - an arrangement of the words which may possibly have been admissible in such interjectional sentences. The catastrophe so much to be dreaded by Jerusalem draws nearer and nearer. Madmenah (dung-hill, see Comm. on Job, at Job 9:11-15) flees in anxious haste: the inhabitants of Gebim (water-pits) carry off their possessions (הּעיז, from עוּז, to flee, related to chush, hence to carry off in flight, to bring in haste to a place of security, Exodus 9:19, cf., Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1; synonymous with hēnı̄s, Exodus 9:20; Judges 6:11; different from ‛âzaz, to be firm, strong, defiant, from which mâ‛oz, a fortress, is derived - in distinction from the Arabic ma‛âdh, a place of refuge: comp. Isaiah 30:2, to flee to Pharaoh's shelter). There are no traces left of either place. The passage is generally understood as implying that the army rested another day in Nob. But this would be altogether at variance with the design - to take Jerusalem by surprise by the suddenness of the destructive blow. We therefore render it, "Even to-day he will halt in Nob" (in eo est ut subsistat, Ges. 132, Anm. 1) - namely, to gather up fresh strength there in front of the city which was doomed to destruction, and to arrange the plan of attack. The supposition that Nob was the village of el-'Isawiye, which is still inhabited, and lies to the south-west of Ant, fifty-five minutes to the north of Jerusalem, is at variance with the situation, as correctly described by Jerome, when he says: "Stans in oppidulo Nob et procul urbem conspiciens Jerusalem." A far more appropriate situation is to be found in the hill which rises to the north of Jerusalem, and which is called Sadr, from its breast-like projection or roundness - a name which is related in meaning to nob, nâb, to rise. From this eminence the way leads down into the valley of Kidron; and as you descend, the city spreads out before you at a very little distance off. It may have been here, in the prophet's view, that the Assyrians halted.
(Note: This is the opinion of Valentiner, who also regards the march of the Assyrians as an "execution-march" in two columns, one of which took the road through the difficult ground to the east, whilst the other inflicted punishment upon the places that stood near the road. The text does not require this, however, but describes a march, which spread alarm both right and left as it went along.)
It was not long, however (as the yenōphēph which follows ἀσυνδέτως implies), before his hand was drawn out to strike (Isaiah 11:15; Isaiah 19:16), and swing over the mountain of the daughter of Zion (Isaiah 16:1), over the city of the holy hill. But what would Jehovah do, who was the only One who could save His threatened dwelling-place in the face of such an army? As far as Isaiah 10:32, the prophet's address moved on at a hurried, stormy pace; it then halted, and seemed, as it were, panting with anxiety; it now breaks forth in a dactylic movement, like a long rolling thunder. The hostile army stands in front of Jerusalem, like a broad dense forest. But it is soon manifest that Jerusalem has a God who cannot be defied with impunity, and who will not leave His city in the lurch at the decisive moment, like the gods of Carchemish and Calno. Jehovah is the Lord, the God of both spiritual and starry hosts. He smites down the branches of this forest of an army: sē‛ēph is a so-called piel privativum, to lop (lit. to take the branches in hand; cf., sikkēl, Isaiah 5:2); and pu'rah equals pe'urah (in Ezekiel pō'rah) is used like the Latin frons, to include both branches and foliage - in other words, the leafy branches as the ornament of the tree, or the branches as adorned with leaves. The instrument He employs is ma‛arâtzâh, his terrifying and crushing power (compare the verb in Isaiah 2:19, Isaiah 2:21). And even the lofty trunks of the forest thus cleared of branches and leaves do not remain; they lie hewn down, and the lofty ones must fall. It is just the same with the trunks, i.e., the leaders, as with the branches and the foliage, i.e., with the great crowded masses. The whole of the forest thicket (as in Isaiah 9:17) he hews down (nikkaph, third pers. piel, though it may also be niphal); and Lebanon, i.e., the army of Asshur which is now standing opposite to Mount Zion, like Lebanon with its forest of cedars, falls down through a Majestic One ('addı̄r), i.e., through Jehovah (Isaiah 33:21, cf., Psalm 76:5; Psalm 93:4). In the account of the fulfilment (Isaiah 37:36) it is the angel of the Lord (mal'ach Jehovah), who is represented as destroying the hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp in a single night. The angel of Jehovah is not a messenger of God sent from afar, but the chosen organ of the ever-present divine power.
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