Isaiah 10:9
Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus?
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(9) Is not Calno as Carchemish?—The six names obviously pointed to more recent conquests in which Sargon and his predecessors had exulted. One after another they had fallen. Could Judah hope to escape? (1) Calno, the Calneh of Genesis 10:10, Amos 6:2. That prophet had held up its fate in vain as a warning to Samaria. It has been identified by Kay with Ctesiphon on the east bank of the Tigris, by Lenormant (Manual, i. 80) with Ur of the Chaldees and with the ruins known now as the Mugheir, by Rawlinson (Five Great Monarchies, i. 20) with Nipur. The Assyrian form, Kil-Anu, means the “house” or “temple” of Anu, an Assyrian deity). Sennacherib (Lenormant i. 398), speaks of having reconquered it after a Chaldean revolt, and sold its inhabitants as slaves. The LXX. version, which instead of naming Carchemish, gives “Calanè, where the tower was built,” seems to imply a tradition identifying that city with the Tower of Babel of Genesis 11:4. (2) Carchemish. Few cities of the ancient world occupied a more prominent position than this. Its name has been explained as meaning the Tower of Chemosh, and so bears witness to the widespread cultus of the deity whom we meet with in Biblical history as the “abomination of the Moabites” (1Kings 11:7). It has been commonly identified with the Circesium of Greek historians, but the inscriptions found by Mr. George Smith at Tarabolos (the Hierapolis of the Greeks) on the banks of the Euphrates, at its junction with the Kyabur, prove that this is the true representative of the great commercial city of the old Hittite kings (Times, Aug. 23, 1876). Its importance is shown by the frequent occurrence of the name, in its Egyptian form of Karakumusha, in the record of Egyptian kings. Thothmes I. (circa B.C. 1600) conquered it, and, as a result of his campaign, strengthened the forces of Egypt with the chariots and horses for which it was afterwards conspicuous (Lenormant, Manual, 1 p. 229). Thothmes III. built a fortress there to guard the passage of the Euphrates (ibid. 1 p. 232), the ruins of which, with Egyptian inscriptions and works of Egyptian manufacture, have recently been found there (ibid. 1 p.,263). It revolted against Ramses II. (the Sesostris of the Greeks), with the Hittites and Phœnicians, and other nations, but was subdued by him in the expedition in which the victorious issue is recorded on the monument on the Nahr-el-Kelb near Beyrût. Shalmaneser IV. (contemporary with Ahab) records that he demolished and burnt it (ibid. 1 p. 380). Tiglath-pileser II., the king to whom Ahaz paid tribute, received tribute from its king in B.C. 742 (ibid. 1 p. 389). The last two victories are probably referred to in the boast now before us. At a later period it was conspicuous for the great defeat of Pharaoh Necho’s army by Nebuchadnezzar (see notes on Jeremiah 46:2). Its commercial importance is indicated by the fact that the “mana (Heb., manah) of Carchemish” appears in numerous cuneiform inscriptions as the standard weight of the time, just as that of Troyes, in the commerce of the Middle Ages, is shown by the survival of the name in the “Troy weight” of our arithmetic books (Records of the Past, vii. 114).

Is not Hamath as Arpad?—(1) Hamath on the Orontes, the capital of an Aramæan kingdom, was prominent in the history of the East. Under its kings Toi and Joram it paid tribute to David (2Samuel 8:9-10). It fell under the power of Jeroboam II. of Israel (2Kings 14:25). In conjunction with Damascus it revolted against Shalmaneser IV., and was subdued by him (Lenormant’s Manual, 1 p. 380). Its king was first among the tributary princes under Tiglath-pileser II. after having joined with Pekah and Rezin in their revolt (ibid. 1 p. 389). Lastly, to come to the date of the present prophecy, it again revolted, in conjunction, as before, with Damascus and Samaria, and was again subdued by Sargon (ibid. 1 p. 393). (2) Of the early history of Arpad we know less, but it appears as having sustained a three years’ siege from the forces of Tiglath-pileser II. It joined Hamath in its revolt against Sargon, and was again, as this verse implies, subdued by him. It is always united in the Old Testament with Hamath (Isaiah 36:19; Isaiah 37:13). Under the name of Erfad it is still traceable about nine miles from Aleppo (Lenormant, 1 pp. 389, 393).

Is not Samaria as Damascus?—These cities, which under Rezin and Remaliah had, as we have seen (Isaiah 7) revolted against Tiglath-pileser, and the latter of which had sought to strengthen itself by an alliance with the Egyptian king So, or Sabaco (2Kings 17:4), of the Ethiopian dynasty, against Shalmaneser IV., close for the present the list of Sargon’s conquests.

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?Is not Calno as Carchemish? - The meaning of this confident boasting is, that none of the cities and nations against which be had directed his arms, had been able to resist him. All had fallen before him; and all were alike prostrate at his feet. Carchemish had been unable to resist him, and Calno had shared the same fate. Arpad had fallen before him, and Hamath in like manner had been subdued. The words which are used here are the same nearly that Rabshakeh used when he was sent by Sennacherib to insult Hezekiah and the Jews; Isaiah 36:19; 2 Kings 18:34. "Calno" was a city in the land of Shinar, and was probably the city built by Nimrod, called in Genesis 10:10, "Calneh," and at one time the capital of his empire. It is mentioned by Ezekiel, Ezekiel 27:23. According to the Targums, Jerome, Eusebius, and others, Calno or Calneh, was the same city as "Ctesiphon," a large city on the bank of the Tigris, and opposite to Selcucia. - "Gesenius" and "Calmet."

Carchemish - This was a city on the Euphrates, belonging to Assyria. It was taken by Necho, king of Egypt, and re-taken by Nebuchadnezzar in the fourth year of Jehoiachin, king of Judah; 2 Kings 23:29. Probably it is the same city as Cercusium, or Kirkisia, which is situated in the angle formed by the junction of the Chebar and the Euphrates; compare Jeremiah 46:2; 2 Chronicles 25:20.

Hamath - This was a celebrated city of Syria. It is referred to in Genesis 10:18, as the seat of one of the tribes of Canaan. It is often mentioned as the northern limit of Canaan. in its widest extent; Numbers 13:21; Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3. The Assyrians became masters of this city about 753 years before Christ; 2 Kings 17:24. Burckhardt mentions this city as situated on both sides of the river Orontes. The town is at present of considerable extent, and contains about 30,000 inhabitants. There are four bridges over the Orontes, in the town. The trade of the town now is with the Arabs, who buy here their tent-furniture, and their clothes. This city was visited by Eli Smith, in 1834. It lies, says he, on the narrow valley of the 'Asy; and is so nearly concealed by the high banks, that one sees little of it until he actually comes up to the gates: "see" Robinson's "Bib. Researches," vol. iii. App. pp. 176, 177.

Arpad - This city was not far from Hamath, and is called by the Greeks Epiphania; 2 Kings 18:34.

Samaria - The capital of Israel, or Ephraim. From the mention of this place, it is evident that this prophecy was written after Samaria had been destroyed; see the notes at Isaiah 7:9; Isaiah 28:1.

As Damascus - The capital of Syria; see the note at Isaiah 7:9, and the Analysis of Isaiah 17:1-14. The Septuagint has varied in their translation here considerably from the Hebrew. They render these verses, 'And he saith, Have I not taken the region beyond Babylon, and Chalane, where the tower was built? and I have taken Arabia, and Damascus, and Samaria.' The main idea, however - the boast of the king of Assyria, is retained.

9. Is not … as—Was there any one of these cities able to withstand me? Not one. So Rab-shakeh vaunts (Isa 36:19).

Calno—Calneh, built by Nimrod (Ge 10:10), once his capital, on the Tigris.

Carchemish—Circesium, on the Euphrates. Taken afterwards by Necho, king of Egypt; and retaken by Nebuchadnezzar: by the Euphrates (Jer 46:2).

Hamath—in Syria, north of Canaan (Ge 10:18). Taken by Assyria about 753 B.C. From it colonists were planted by Assyria in Samaria.

Arpad—near Hamath.

Samaria—now overthrown.

Damascus—(Isa 17:1, 3).

Is not Calno as Carchemish? have not I conquered one place as well as another, the stronger as well as the weaker? Have I not from time to time added new conquests to the old? Calno seems to be the same with Calneh, Genesis 10:10 Amos 6:2, a great and strong city. Carchemish was a city upon Euphrates, of which 2 Chronicles 35:20 Jeremiah 46:2.

Is not Hamath as Arpad? Hamath was an eminent city of Syria, not far from Euphrates, called Hemath, or Hamath the great, Amos 6:2; of which see 2 Kings 14:28 17:24 Jeremiah 49:23. Arpad seems to have been an obscure place, not being elsewhere named. Is not that as soon conquered as this?

Is not Samaria as Damascus? or, shall not Samaria be as Damascus? Shall I not take that as I have done this city? For although Damascus possibly was not yet taken by the Assyrian, yet the prophet speaks of it as actually taken, because these words are prophetically delivered, and supposed to be uttered by the king of Assyria at or about the siege of Samaria, when Damascus was taken. Is not Calno as Carchemish?.... Jarchi's note is,

"as the children of Carchemish are princes and rulers, so are the children of Calno;''

as if this was giving an instance of the grandeur of his subjects; but much better is the Targum,

"as Carchemish is subdued before me, shall not Calno be so?''

as I or my ancestors have conquered the one, it is as easy for me to conquer the other; or as sure as the one is subject to me, so sure shall the other be; for Carchemish was a city belonging to the Assyrians, situated upon the river Euphrates, 2 Chronicles 35:20 called by Ammianus (k) Circusium; the Syriac version calls it Barchemosh; and Calno is the same with Calneh in the land of Shinar, a city built by Nimrod, Genesis 10:10 in the Septuagint version it is called Chalane, and it is added,

"where the tower was built;''

from whence the country, called by Pliny (l) Chalonitis, had its name, the chief city of which was Ctesiphon, thought to be the same with Calneh.

Is not Hamath as Arphad? Hamath and Arphad were both cities conquered by the Assyrians; see 2 Kings 18:34 and are both mentioned along with Damascus, Jeremiah 49:23.

Is not Samaria as Damascus? Damascus was the metropolis of Syria, and was taken by the Assyrians; and Samaria was the metropolis of Ephraim, or the ten tribes; see Isaiah 7:8 and was as easy to be taken as Damascus was. The Targum is,

"as Arphad is delivered into my hands, shall not Hamath be so? As I have done to Damascus, so will I do to Samaria.''

(k) L. 23. c. 5. p. 360. (l) Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 26. and 27.

Is not Calno as {g} Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus?

(g) Seeing that I have overcome one city as well as another, so that none could resist, shall Jerusalem be able to escape my hands?

9. The six cities are enumerated in geographical order from north to south, the first of each pair being, however, nearer to Jerusalem than the second. (1) The site of Carchemish (Ass. Gargamîsh) was identified by Mr G. Smith with the ruins of Jerabîs on the right bank of the Euphrates. As a great centre of the Hittite confederacy it had been frequently subdued by Assyrian kings, and was ultimately incorporated in the Empire by Sargon in 717. (2) Calno is probably Kullani, a city near Arpad, captured by Tiglath-pileser III. about 738. It is probably identical with the Calneh mentioned in Amos 6:2; but quite distinct from the Babylonian Calnçh of Genesis 10:10. (3) Arpad (now Tell Erfâd, about 15 miles north of Aleppo) was taken about 740 by Tiglath-pileser. (4) Hamath (Hamah, on the Orontes, about half way between Carchemish and Damascus) was taken by Tiglath-pileser in 738 and again by Sargon in 720. (5) Damascus fell about 732 and (6) Samaria in 722.Verse 9. - Is not Calno as Carehemish? A further proof of superiority, and ground of confidence, lay in the further fact, that the strongest cities had, one and all, succumbed to the Assyrian arms, and been laid in ruins to punish them for offering resistance. Six such cities are mentioned - Calneh, probably Niffer, in Lower Mesopotamia; Carchemish, on the right bank of the Euphrates in Lat. 36° 30' nearly; Hamath, the "great Hamath" of Amos (Amos 6:2), in Coelesyria on the routes; Arpad, perhaps Tel-Erfad, near Aleppo; Damascus, and Samaria. Calneh was one of the cities of Nimrod (Genesis 10:10), and, according to the LXX., was "the place where the tower was built." It may have been taken by Tiglath-Pileser in one of his expeditious into Babylonia. Amos (Amos 6:2) speaks of it as desolate in his day. Carchemish (Assyrian Gargamis) was a chief city of the Hittites, and has been called "their northern capital." Long confounded by geographers with Circesium at the junction of the Khabour with the Euphrates, it has recently been proved to have occupied a far more northern position, and is now generally identified with the ruins discovered by Mr. George Smith at Jerabis or Jerabhs. It was conquered by Sargon in B.C. 717, when "its people were led captive, and scattered over the Assyrian empire, while Assyrian colonists were brought to people the city in their place; Carchemish being formally annexed to Assyria, and placed under an Assyrian governor" (G. Smith, 'Assyria,' p. 97). Hamath was originally a Canaanite city (Genesis 10:18). By the time of David it had become the scat of an independent monarchy (2 Samuel 8:9, 10), and so continued until its reduction by the Assyrians. We find it leagued with the Hittites, the Syrians of Damascus, and the Israelites against Assyria about B.C. 850 ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. pp. 361-363). About B.C. 720 it was taken by Sargon, who beheaded its king, and probably reduced it to ruins (ibid., p. 411; comp. Amos 6:2). The name remains in the modern Hamah, where many curious inscriptions have been recently dug up. Arpad was attacked by Tiglath-Pileser in the early part of his reign, and reduced to subjection. It revolted in conjunction with Hamath from Sargon, and was severely punished ('Ancient Monarchies,' l.s.c.). Is not Samaria as Damascus? This mention of Samaria among the subjugated and ruined cities may undoubtedly be prophetic; but the connection with Carchemish, Hamath, and Arpad all of them towns reduced by Sargon within the years B.C. 720-717 - points rather to the verse being historical, and would seem to indicate that the date of the entire prophecy - vers. 5-19 - is subsequent to the capture of the cities, and so not earlier than B.C. 716. 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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