Isaiah 10:7
However, he means not so, neither does his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.
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(7) Howbeit he meaneth not so.—The thoughts which Isaiah puts into the mouth of the Assyrian are exactly in accord with the supreme egotism of the Sargon inscription, “I conquered,” “I besieged,” “I burnt,” “I killed,” “I destroyed”; this is the ever-recurring burden, mingled here and there with the boast that he is the champion of the great deities of Assyria, of Ishtar and of Nebo.

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?Howbeit he meaneth not so - It is not his purpose to be the instrument, in the hand of God, of executing his designs. He has a different plan; a plan of his own which he intends to accomplish.

Neither doth his heart think so - He does not intend or design it. The "heart" here, is put to express "purpose, or will."

It is "in his heart to cut off nations - Utterly to destroy or to annihilate their political existence.

Not a few - The ambitious purpose of Sennacherib was not confined to Judea. His plan was also to invade and to conquer Egypt; and the destruction of Judea, was only a part of his scheme; Isaiah 20:1-6. This is a most remarkable instance of the supremacy which God asserts over the purposes of wicked people. Sennacherib formed his own plan without compulsion. He devised large purposes of ambition, and intended to devastate kingdoms. And yet God says that he was under his direction, and that his plans would be overruled to further his own purposes. Thus 'the wrath of man would be made to praise him;' Psalm 76:10. And from this we may learn

(1) That wicked people form their plans and devices with perfect freedom. They lay their schemes as if there were no superintending providence; and feel, correctly, that they are not under the laws of compulsion, or of fate.

(2) That God presides over their schemes. and suffers them to be formed and executed with reference to his own purposes.

(3) That the plans of wicked people often, though they do not intend it, go to execute the purposes of God. Their schemes result in just what they did not intend - the furtherance of his plans, and the promotion of his glory

(4) That their plans are, nevertheless, wicked and abominable. They are to be judged according to what they are in themselves, and not according to the use which God may make of them by counteracting or overruling them. "Their" intention is evil; and by that they must be judged. That God brings good out of them, is contrary to their design, and a thing for which "they" deserve no credit, and should receive no reward.

(5) The wicked are in the hands of God.

(6) There is a superintending providence; and people cannot defeat the purposes of the Almighty. This extends to princes on their thrones; to the rich, the great, and the mighty, as well as to the poor and the humble - and to the humble as well as to the rich and the great. Over all people is this superintending and controlling providence; and all are subject to the direction of God.

(7) It has often happened, "in fact," that the plans of wicked people have been made to contribute to the purposes of God. Instances like those of Pharaoh, of Cyrus, and of Sennacherib; of Pontius Pilate, and of the kings and emperors who persecuted the early Christian church, show that they are in the hand of God, and that he can overrule their wrath and wickedness to his glory. The madness of Pharaoh was the occasion of the signal displays of the power of God in Egypt. The wickedness, and weakness, and flexibility of Pilate, was the occasion of the atonement made for the sins of the world. And the church rose, in its primitive brightness and splendor, amid the flames which persecution kindled, and was augmented in numbers, and in moral loveliness and power, just in proportion as the wrath of monarchs raged to destroy it.

7. meaneth not so—He is only thinking of his own schemes, while God is overruling them to His purposes.

think—intend. Sinners' plans are no less culpable, though they by them unconsciously fulfil God's designs (Ps 76:10; Mic 4:12). So Joseph's brethren (Ge 50:20; Pr 16:4). The sinner's motive, not the result (which depends on God), will be the test in judgment.

heart to destroy … not a few—Sennacherib's ambition was not confined to Judea. His plan was also to conquer Egypt and Ethiopia (Isa 20:1-6; Zec 1:15).

He meaneth not so; he doth not at all design the execution of my will. and the glory of my justice, in punishing mine enemies; but only to enlarge his own empire, and satisfy his own lusts; which is seasonably added, to justify God in his judgments threatened to the Assyrian, notwithstanding this service.

To destroy and cut off nations not a few; to sacrifice multitudes of people to his own ambition and covetousness; which is abominable impiety. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so,.... His purposes, intentions, and thoughts, were not as the Lord's; he did not imagine that he was only the rod of his anger, and the staff of his indignation, a minister of his wrath, and the executioner of his vengeance; he thought he was his own lord and master, and acted by his own power, and according to his own will, and was not under the direction and restraints of another; his intention was not to chastise and correct the people of the Jews, but utterly to destroy them, and not them only, but many other nations; as follows:

but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations, not a few; not the nation of the Jews only, but many others, and so establish an universal monarchy; and what flushed him with hope and expectation of success were the magnificence of his princes, and the conquests he had already made.

Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.
7. Howbeit he meaneth not so] The charge is not so much that Asshur exceeds his commission (as in Zechariah 1:15), as that he recognises no commission at all; his policy is entirely oblivious of moral interests.Verse 7. - Howbeit he meaneth not so. "Assyria," i.e., "does not view the matter in this light - is not aware that she is merely God's instrument in working out his will. On the contrary, it is in her heart to destroy the nations for her own advantage, and she imagines that she is doing it by her own strength." Strophe 4. "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers who prepare trouble to force away the needy from demanding justice, and to rob the suffering of my people of their rightful claims, that widows may become their prey, and they plunder orphans! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the storm that cometh from afar? To whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye deposit your glory? There is nothing left but to bow down under prisoners, and they fall under the slain. With all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still." This last strophe is directed against the unjust authorities and judges. The woe pronounced upon them is, as we have already frequently seen, Isaiah's Ceterum censeo. Châkak is their decisive decree (not, however, in a denominative sense, but in the primary sense of hewing in, recording in official documents, 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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