Isaiah 11:14
But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
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(14) They shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines . . .—The English version is ambiguous, and half suggests the thought that the Philistines should bear the returning Israelites as on their shoulders; so the LXX. gives, “And they shall speed their wings in the ships of the aliens.” What is meant, however, is that the returning exiles shall swoop down, as a bird of prey after its flight, “upon the shoulder of the Philistines,” that name being applied (as in Ezekiel 25:9; Joshua 15:10) to the shape of the seaward- sloping country occupied by that people. From this victorious onset in the West, they are to pass on to “the children of the East,” the generic name for the nomadic tribes that are found associated with the Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 6:3; Judges 6:33; Judges 7:12), and in Isaiah 2:6, with the Philistines themselves, and then to complete their triumph by avenging themselves on their old enemies of Edom, and Moab, and Ammon. The whole verse is singularly characteristic of what has been already spoken of as the limitation of prophetic knowledge. The seer has had revealed to him the glory of the Messianic kingdom as a restored Eden, full of the knowledge of Jehovah, the Gentiles seeking light and salvation from it. Suddenly he blends this with anticipations that belong to the feelings and complications of his own time. He sees Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, in that far future. They will be then, as they were in his own times, the persistent foes of Israel (comp. Zephaniah 2:7-9), but will be, at last, subdued.

11:10-16 When the gospel should be publicly preached, the Gentiles would seek Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and find rest of soul. When God's time is come for the deliverance of his people, mountains of opposition shall become plains before him. God can soon turn gloomy days into glorious ones. And while we expect the Lord to gather his ancient people, and bring them home to his church, also to bring in the fulness of the Gentiles, when all will be united in holy love, let us tread the highway of holiness he has made for his redeemed. Let us wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life, looking to him to prepare our way through death, that river which separates this world from the eternal world.But they shall fly - The design of this verse is, to show the rapid and certain spiritual conquests which would result from the conversion of the scattered Jewish people. The Jews understood this literally, as referring to the conquests over their enemies. But if the exposition which has been given of this chapter thus far is correct, the passage is to be interpreted as a figurative description of the triumph of the people of God under the Messiah. The "time" to which it refers, is that which shall succeed the conversion of the scattered Jews. The "effect" of the gospel is represented under an image which, to Jews, would be most striking - that of conquest over the neighboring nations with whom they had been continually at war. Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Ammon, had been always the enemies of Judea; and to the Jews, no figurative representation could be more striking than that, "after" the union of Judah and Ephraim, they should proceed in rapid and certain conquest to subdue their ancient and formidable enemies. The meaning of the phrase 'they shall fly,' is, they shall hasten with a rapid motion, like a bird. They shall do it quickly, without delay, as an eagle hastens to its prey. It indicates their "suddenly" engaging in this, and the celerity and certainty of their movements. As the united powers of Judah and Ephraim would naturally make a sudden descent on Philistia, so the Jews, united under the Messiah, would go to the rapid and certain conversion of those who had been the enemies of the cross.

Upon the shoulders - בכתף bekâthêph. There has been a great variety in the interpretation of this passage; and it is evident that our translation does not express a very clear idea. The Septuagint renders it, 'And they shall fly in the ships of foreigners, and they shall plunder the sea.' The Chaldee, 'And they shall be joined with one shoulder, that is, they shall be "united" shoulder to shoulder, that they may smite the Philistines who are in the west.' The Syriac, 'But they shall "plow" the Philistines;' that is, they shall subdue them, and cultivate their land. The word rendered, 'shoulder,' means, properly, "the shoulder," as of a man or beast Isaiah 46:7; Isaiah 49:22; Numbers 7:9; Job 31:22; Ezekiel 24:4; the undersetters or shoulders to support the lavers 1 Kings 7:30; a corner or side of a building Exodus 38:14; and is applied to "the side" of anything, as the side of a building, the border of a country, a city, or sea (1 Kings 6:8; 1 Kings 7:39; Numbers 34:11; Joshua 15:8, Joshua 15:10-11, ...) Here it seems to mean, not that the Jews would be borne "upon" the shoulder of the Philistines, but that they would make a sudden and rapid descent "upon their borders:" they would invade their territory, and carry their conquest 'toward the west.' The construction is, therefore, 'they shall make a rapid descent on the borders of the Philistines,' or, in other words, the spiritual conquest over the enemies of the church of God shall be certain and rapid.

The Philistines - Philistia was situated on the southwestern side of the land of Canaan. The Philistines were therefore adjacent to the Jews, and were often involved in war with them. They were among the most constant and formidable enemies which the Jews had.

Toward the west - This does not mean that they should be borne on the shoulders of the Philistines to the west; but that they should make a sudden and rapid descent on the Philistines, who "were" west of them. It stands opposed to the nations immediately mentioned as lying "east" of the land of Judea.

They shall spoil - They shall plunder; or, they shall take them, and their towns and property, as the spoil of war. That is, they shall vanquish them, and make them subject to them. According to the interpretation which has been pursued in this chapter, it means, that the enemies of God shall be subdued, and brought to the knowledge of the truth, in a rapid and decisive manner. The language is that which is drawn from the idea of conquest; the idea is that of a rapid and far-spreading conversion among the nations, to the gospel.

Them of the east - Hebrew, 'The sons of the east; that is, the nations east of Judea.

They shall lay their hand - Hebrew, 'Edom and Moab shall be the laying on of their hand;' that is, they shall lay their hand on those nations for conquest and spoil; they shall subdue them.

Edom - Idumea; the country settled by the descendants of Esau - a country that was south of Judea, and extended from the Dead Sea to the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea. They were an independent people until the time of David, and were reduced to subjection by him, but they afterward revolted and became again independent. They were often engaged in wars with the Jews, and their conquest was an object that was deemed by the Jews to be very desirable (see the notes at Isaiah 34.)

And Moab - The country of the Moabites was east of the river Jordan, on both sides of the river Arnon, and adjoining the Dead Sea. Their capital was on the river Arnon. They also were often involved in wars with the Jews (compare Deuteronomy 23:3; see the notes at Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14.)

And the children of Ammon - The Ammonites, the descendants of Ammon, a son of Lot. Their country lay southeast of Judea Deuteronomy 2:19-21. Their territory extended from the river Arnon north to the river Jabbok, and from the Jordan far into Arabia. It was directly north of Moab, They were often engaged, in alliance with the Moabites, in waging war against the Jews.

Shall obey them - Hebrew, 'Shall be their obedience.' All these descriptions are similar. They are not to be interpreted literally, but are designed to denote the rapid triumphs of the truth of God after the conversion of the Jews; and the sense is, that the conquests of the gospel will be as sudden, as great, and as striking over its enemies, as would have been the complete subjugation of Philistia, Moab, Ammon, and Edom, to the victorious army of the Jews.

14. With united forces they shall subdue their foes (Am 9:12).

fly—as a bird of prey (Hab 1:8).

upon the shoulders—This expresses an attack made unexpectedly on one from behind. The image is the more apt, as the Hebrew for "shoulders" in Nu 34:11 is used also of a maritime coast ("side of the sea": Hebrew, "shoulder of the sea," Margin). They shall make a sudden victorious descent upon their borders southwest of Judea.

them of the east—Hebrew, "children of the East," the Arabs, who, always hostile, are not to be reduced under regular government, but are only to be despoiled (Jer 49:28, 29).

lay … hand upon—take possession of (Da 11:42).

Edom—south of Judah, from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea; "Moab"—east of Jordan and the Dead Sea.

Ammon—east of Judea, north of Moab, between the Arnon and Jabbok.

Shall fly upon the shoulders; either it is a metaphor from birds and beasts of prey, which commonly fasten upon the shoulders of cattle; or from wrestlers, who endeavour to catch hold of their adversaries’ shoulders, that they may throw them down. Or, shoulder is put for a side, as Numbers 34:11 Joshua 15:8,10, or for part or quarter of a country, as Deu 33:12.

They shall spoil them; they shall subdue them; which is to be understood of the spiritual victory which the Jewish Messiah shall obtain by his apostles and ministers over all nations, in bringing them to the obedience of his gospel. For it is the manner of the prophets to speak of the spiritual things of the gospel under such corporal representations.

But they shall flee upon the shoulders of the Philistines towards the west,.... That is, Ephraim and Judah, who shall not only agree among themselves, but cheerfully join together against the common enemy: "they shall flee with the shoulder", as some render the words; with joint consent, as the phrase is used in Hosea 6:9, Zephaniah 3:9 and so the Targum,

"and they shall be joined together in one shoulder, to smite the Philistines;''

the Septuagint version is, "they shall flee in the ships of strangers"; and so Abarbinel interprets it of the ships of the Philistines, Genoese, and Venetians, that shall bring the Israelites from the west to the east, and carry them in ships by sea. The Philistines were the sworn enemies of the Israelites, and lay to the west of the land of Israel, and when the Gospel was sent into all the world, it began to be preached in the parts of Palestine, whereby many were converted, and embraced it, as foretold they should, Psalm 87:4 and flying upon their shoulders, as it denotes the conquest of them, and their subjection to the Gospel, so the swiftness of the apostles in carrying it to them, when they had a commission to do it, who were all of them Jews, of one tribe or another; and these may also design the enemies of the people of God now, the antichristian states, some of which will fall off from Popery, receive the Gospel, hate the whore, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire; which will be brought about by the preaching of the Gospel by its ministers, who will fly in the midst of heaven, and upon the shoulders of the Romish antichrist, and proclaim the fall of Babylon, and call upon, the Lord's people to come out of it, Revelation 14:6,

they shall spoil them of the east together; the Syrians and Arabians, who lay east of Judea; perhaps the Turks are meant, and the destruction of the Ottoman empire, whereby way will be made for the kings and kingdoms of the east to know, receive, and profess the Gospel of Christ, Revelation 16:12.

they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; or "there shall be a sending out of their hand"; that is, they shall stretch out their hand, and lay hold on these people, and bring them into subjection to them; which is to be understood of the sending out of the Gospel, by the hands of the ministers of it, into those countries where the Moabites and Edomites formerly dwelt; and thereby bringing them into subjection to Christ and his churches:

and the children of Ammon shall obey them; that have the rule in the house of God, submitting to the laws and ordinances of Christ.

But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
14. they shall fly] or swoop, as a bird of prey (Habakkuk 1:8). The country of the Philistines is compared to a shoulder falling down towards the sea (cf. Numbers 34:11; Joshua 15:11; Joshua 18:12).

them of the east] lit. the children of the East (as R.V.), a name for the Arabs of the Eastern desert.

they shall lay … obey them] The Hebrew construction is peculiar. Lit. “Edom and Moab shall be the forth-putting of their hand, and the children of Ammon their obedience.”

Verses 14-16. - THE UNITED CHURCH SHALL TRIUMPH OVER ITS ENEMIES. PHYSICAL OBSTACLES TO ITS UNION GOD WILL REMOVE. Israel's most persistent enemies had been the border-nations of the Philistines, the Edomites, the Arabs, Moab and Ammon. These are now taken as types of the enemies of the Church, and victory over them is promised (ver. 14). A further promise is made that physical difficulties shall not prevent the return of the Jewish exiles from distant countries (vers. 15, 16). Verse 14. - They shall fly upon the shoulders of the philistines. It is not to be supposed that actual war is intended. The subjects of the Prince of Peace will not draw the sword. But the Church will for many centuries be confronted by enemies, and must contend with them with legitimate weapons. It is this warfare of which Isaiah now speaks. The united Church will be strong enough to assail her enemies on all sides, and will "swoop" upon the border country of the Philistines like a bird of prey. They shall spoil them of the east; or, the Bent Kedem. The phrase is commonly used in an ethnic sense of the nomadic Arabs inhabiting the deserts east of Jordan, beyond the Ammonite and Moabite country, from whose raids Palestine frequently suffered (see Jeremiah 49:28, 29; Ezekiel 25:4, 10). Isaiah 11:14A fourth question has reference to the relation between this Israel of the future and the surrounding nations, such as the warlike Philistines, the predatory nomad tribes of the East, the unbrotherly Edomites, the boasting Moabites, and the cruel Ammonites. Will they not disturb and weaken the new Israel, as they did the old? "And they fly upon the shoulder of the Philistines seawards; unitedly they plunder the sons of the East: they seize upon Edom and Moab, and the sons of Ammon are subject to them." Câthēph (shoulder) was the peculiar name of the coast-land of Philistia which sloped off towards the sea (Joshua 15:11); but here it is used with an implied allusion to this, to signify the shoulder of the Philistian nation (becâthēph equals becĕthĕph; for the cause see at Isaiah 5:2), upon which Israel plunges down like an eagle from the height of its mountain-land. The "object of the stretching out of their hand" is equivalent to the object of their grasp. And whenever any one of the surrounding nations mentioned should attack Israel, the whole people would make common cause, and act together. How does this warlike prospect square, however, with the previous promise of paradisaical peace, and the end of all warfare which this promise presupposes (cf., Isaiah 2:4)? This is a contradiction, the solution of which is to be found in the fact that we have only figures here, and figures drawn from the existing relations and warlike engagements of the nation, in which the prophet pictures that supremacy of the future united Israel over surrounding nations, which is to be maintained by spiritual weapons.
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