Isaiah 13:12 Commentaries: I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold And mankind than the gold of Ophir.
Isaiah 13:12
I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) I will make a man more precious.—Both the words for man (e̓nosh and a̓dam) express, as in Psalm 8:2, the frailty of man’s nature. The words may point to the utter destruction, in which but few men should be left. The “gold of Ophir” (the gold coast near the mouth of the Indus) was proverbial for its preciousness (Job 22:24; Job 28:16; 1Chronicles 29:4; 1Kings 9:28; 1Kings 22:48).

13:6-18 We have here the terrible desolation of Babylon by the Medes and Persians. Those who in the day of their peace were proud, and haughty, and terrible, are quite dispirited when trouble comes. Their faces shall be scorched with the flame. All comfort and hope shall fail. The stars of heaven shall not give their light, the sun shall be darkened. Such expressions are often employed by the prophets, to describe the convulsions of governments. God will visit them for their iniquity, particularly the sin of pride, which brings men low. There shall be a general scene of horror. Those who join themselves to Babylon, must expect to share her plagues, Re 18:4. All that men have, they would give for their lives, but no man's riches shall be the ransom of his life. Pause here and wonder that men should be thus cruel and inhuman, and see how corrupt the nature of man is become. And that little infants thus suffer, which shows that there is an original guilt, by which life is forfeited as soon as it is begun. The day of the Lord will, indeed, be terrible with wrath and fierce anger, far beyond all here stated. Nor will there be any place for the sinner to flee to, or attempt an escape. But few act as though they believed these things.I will make a man ... - I will so cut off and destroy the men of Babylon, that a single man to defend the city will be more rare and valuable than fine gold. The expression indicates that there would be a great slaughter of the people of Babylon.

Than fine gold - Pure, unalloyed gold. The word used here (פז pâz) is often distinguished from common gold Psalm 19:11; Psalm 119:127; Proverbs 8:19.

Than the golden wedge of Ophir - The word (כתם kethem) rendered 'wedge' means properly "gold;" yellow gold; what is hidden, precious, or hoarded; and is used only in poetry. It indicates nothing about the shape of the gold, as the word, wedge would seem to suppose. 'Ophir was a country to which the vessels of Solomon traded, and which was particularly distinguished for producing gold; but respecting its particular situation, there has been much discussion. The 'ships of Tarshish' sailed from Ezion-geber on the Red Sea, and went to Ophir 1 Kings 9:26; 1 Kings 10:22; 1 Kings 22:48. Three years were required for the voyage; and they returned freighted with gold, peacocks, apes, spices, ivory, and ebony (1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:11-12; compare 2 Chronicles 8:18). The gold of that country was more celebrated than that of any other country for its purity. Josephus supposes that it was in the East Indies; Bruce that it was in South Africa; Rosenmuller and others suppose that it was in Southern Arabia. It is probable that the situation of Ophir must ever remain a matter of conjecture. The Chaldee Paraphrase gives a different sense to this passage. 'I will love those who fear me, more than gold in which people glory; and those who observe the law more than the tried gold of Ophir.' (On the situation of Ophir the following works may be consulted: The "Pictorial Bible," vol. ii. pp. 364-369; Martini Lipenii, "Dissert. de Ophir;" Joan. Christophori Wichmanshausen "Dissert. de Navig. Ophritica:" H. Relandi, "Dissert. de Ophir;" Ugolini, "Thes. Sac. Ant." vol. viii.; and Forster "On Arabia.")

12. man … precious—I will so cut off Babylon's defenders, that a single man shall be as rare and precious as the finest gold. The city and nation shall be so depopulated, that few men shall be left in it. I will make a man more precious than fine gold,.... Which may denote either the scarcity of men in Babylon, through the slaughter made of them; so things that are scarce and rare are said to be precious, 1 Samuel 3:1 or the resolution of the Medes to spare none, though ever so much gold were offered to them, they being not to be bribed therewith, Isaiah 13:17 or that such should be the fear of men, that they would not be prevailed upon to take up arms to defend themselves or their king, whatever quantity of gold, even the best, was proposed unto them, a man was not to be got for money:

even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir; which designs the same thing in different words. The Targum gives another sense of the whole, paraphrasing it thus,

"I will love them that fear me more than gold, of which men glory; and those that keep the law more than the fine gold of Ophir;''

understanding it of the Israelites, that were in Babylon when it was taken, and who were precious and in high esteem with the Medes and Persians, more than gold, and whose lives they spared. Jarchi interprets it particularly of Daniel, and of the honour that was done him by Belshazzar, upon his reading and interpreting the writing on the wall, Daniel 5:29. This is interpreted by the Jews also of the King Messiah; for in an ancient writing (g) of theirs, where having mentioned this passage, it is added, this is the Messiah, that shall ascend and be more precious than all the children of the world, and all the children of the world shall worship and bow before him. Some take "Phaz", the word for fine gold, to be the name of a place from whence it came, and therefore was so called; and that the kingdom of Phez, in Africa, has its name from hence; and Ophir is taken to be Peru in America; though others place it in India; and the Arabic version renders it, "a man shall be more precious than a little stone that is" brought "from India"; and the Septuagint version is, "than a stone in", or "of sapphire".

(g) Zohar in Gen. fol. 71, 1.

I will make a {l} man more rare than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

(l) He notes the great slaughter that will be, seeing the enemy will neither for gold or silver spare a man's life as in Isa 13:17.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. golden wedge] Render simply gold. Both the words for gold are rare and poetic.Verse 12. - I will make a man more precious than fine gold (comp. Isaiah 4:1). Population shall he so diminished that man shall be the most highly esteemed of commodities. The more scanty the supply of a thing, the greater its value. The golden wedge of Ophir; rather, pure gold of Ophir. Ophir is mentioned as a gold-region in 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:11; 1 Kings 22:48; 1 Chronicles 29:4; 2 Chronicles 8:18; 2 Chronicles 9:10; Job 22:24; Job 28:16; Psalm 45:9. Its locality is uncertain. Gold of Ophir appears to have been considered especially pure. Then all sink into anxious and fearful trembling. "Howl; for the day of Jehovah is near; like a destructive force from the Almighty it comes. Therefore all arms hang loosely down, and every human heart melts away. And they are troubled: they fall into cramps and pangs; like a woman in labour they twist themselves: one stares at the other; their faces are faces of flame." The command הילילוּ (not written defectively, הלילוּ) is followed by the reason for such a command, viz., "the day of Jehovah is near," the watchword of prophecy from the time of Joel downwards. The Caph in ceshod is the so-called Caph veritatis, or more correctly, the Caph of comparison between the individual and its genus. It is destruction by one who possesses unlimited power to destroy (shōd, from shâdad, from which we have shaddai, after the form chaggai, the festive one, from châgag). In this play upon the words, Isaiah also repeats certain words of Joel (Joel 1:15). Then the heads hang down from despondency and helplessness, and the heart, the seat of lift, melts (Isaiah 19:1) in the heat of anguish. Universal consternation ensues. This is expressed by the word venibhâlu, which stands in half pause; the word has shalsheleth followed by psik (pasek), an accent which only occurs in seven passages in the twenty-one prose books of the Old Testament, and always with this dividing stroke after it.

(Note: For the seven passages, see Ewald, Lehrbuch (ed. 7), p. 224.)

Observe also the following fut. paragogica, which add considerably to the energy of the description by their anapaestic rhythm. The men (subj.) lay hold of cramps and pangs (as in Job 18:20; Job 21:6), the force of the events compelling them to enter into such a condition. Their faces are faces of flames. Knobel understands this as referring to their turning pale, which is a piece of exegetical jugglery. At the same time, it does not suggest mere redness, nor a convulsive movement; but just as a flame alternates between light and darkness, so their faces become alternately flushed and pale, as the blood ebbs and flows, as it were, being at one time driven with force into their faces, and then again driven back to the heart, so as to leave deadly paleness, in consequence of their anguish and terror.

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