Isaiah 13:14 Commentaries: And it will be that like a hunted gazelle, Or like sheep with none to gather them, They will each turn to his own people, And each one flee to his own land.
Isaiah 13:14
And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man takes up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.
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(14) And it shall be as the chased roe.—Better, as with a chased roe . . . . as with sheep . . . The roe and the sheep represent the “mixed multitude” (Ӕsch., Pers. 52) of all nations who had been carried into Babylon, and who would naturally take to flight, some, though without a leader, returning to their own lands on the approach of the invader.

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.And it shall be - Babylon shall be.

As the chased roe - Once so proud. lofty, arrogant, and self-confident; it shall be as the trembling gazelle, or the timid deer pursued by the hunter, and panting for safety. The word (צבי tsebı̂y) denotes a deer of the most delicate frame; the species that is most fleet and graceful in its movements; properly the "gazelle" (see Bochart's "Hieroz." i. 3. 25). 'To hunt the antelope is a favorite amusement in the East, but which, from its extraordinary swiftness, is attended with great difficulty. On the first alarm, it flies like an arrow from the bow, and leaves the best-mounted hunter, and the fleetest dog, far behind. The sportsman is obliged to call in the aid of the falcon, trained to the work, to seize on the animal, and impede its motions, to give the dogs time to overtake it. Dr. Russel thus describes the chase of the antelope: "They permit horsemen, without dogs, if they advance gently, to approach near, and do not seem much to regard a caravan that passes within a little distance; but the moment they take the alarm, they bound away, casting from time to time a look behind: and if they find themselves pursued, they lay their horns backward, almost close on the shoulders, and flee with incredible swiftness. When dogs appear, they instantly take the alarm, for which reason the sportsmen endeavor to steal upon the antelope unawares, to get as near as possible before slipping the dogs; and then, pushing on at full speed, they throw off the falcon, which being taught to strike or fix upon the cheek of the game, retards its course by repeated attacks, until the greyhounds have time to get up."' - (Burder's "Orient. Cus.")

As a sheep - Or like a scattered flock of sheep in the wilderness that has no shepherd, and no one to collect them together; an image also of that which is timid and defenseless.

That no man taketh up - That is astray, and not under the protection of any shepherd. The meaning is, that that people, once so proud and self-confident, would become alarmed, and scattered, and be afraid of everything.

They shall every man turn unto his own people - Babylon was the capital of the pagan world. It was a vast and magnificent city; the center of many nations. It would be the place, therefore, where numerous foreigners would take up a temporary residence, as London and other large cities are now. Jeremiah Jer 50:37 describes Babylon as containing a mingled population - 'and upon all the mingled people that are in the midst of her' - that is, "the colluvies gentium," as Tacitus describes Rome in his time. Jeremiah also Jeremiah 50:28 describes this mingled multitude as fleeing and escaping out of the land of Babylon, when these calamities should come upon them. The idea in Isaiah is, that this great and mixed multitude would endeavor to escape the impending calamities, and flee to their own nations.

14. it—Babylon.

roe—gazelle; the most timid and easily startled.

no man taketh up—sheep defenseless, without a shepherd (Zec 13:7).

every man … to his own people—The "mingled peoples" of foreign lands shall flee out of her (Jer 50:16, 28, 37; 51:9).

And it, to wit, Babylon,

shall be as the chased roe; fearful in itself, especially when it is pursued by the hunter.

As a sheep that no man taketh up; in a most forlorn and neglected condition.

Every man; those soldiers of other and more warlike nations whom she had hired to assist her; which she used to do at other times, but especially upon this great occasion; of which See Poole "Jeremiah 50:16"; See Poole "Jeremiah 51:9". And it shall be as the chased roe,.... That is, Babylon, and the inhabitants thereof, shall be like a roe when hunted by the dogs; which is a very fearful creature, and at the sight and noise of the dogs flies here and there for safety; just so should be the most courageous of the Babylonians, when their city should be taken. The Syriac version renders it, "they shall be"; and the Septuagint and Arabic versions, "they that are left shall be as the fleeing roe", such who fall not by the sword. Kimchi interprets it of people of other nations that should be in Babylon when taken, which agrees with the latter part of the verse:

and as a sheep that no man taketh up; the Septuagint and Arabic versions read, "as a straying sheep", that flees from the wolf; and there being none to fetch it back, and bring it to the flock, it wanders about and perishes:

they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee everyone into his own land; this is to be understood of such foreigners, who were called in by the king of Babylon to his assistance, and the defence of the city; who perceiving it to be taken, or in danger, fled to their own countries, from whence they came, and so left the city naked and defenceless, see Jeremiah 50:16.

And {m} it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one to his own land.

(m) Meaning the power of Babylon with their hired soldiers.

14. Those who flee to their own land are the foreign residents who had been attracted by the wealth and commerce of Babylon from all parts of the world, cf. Jeremiah 51:44; Nahum 2:8; Nahum 3:16.

a sheep that no man taketh up] Better: sheep with none to gather them, Nahum 3:18. For the figure cf. 1 Kings 22:17; Ezekiel 34:5; Matthew 9:36.

14–16. The dispersion and slaughter of the population of Babylon. The prophecy from this point becomes more explicit in its main reference to Babylon.Verse 14. - It shall be as the chased roe. When the visitation comes on Babylon, there shall be a loosening of all ties between her and the subject nations. Her armies shall disband themselves, the pressed soldiers from foreign countries deserting, and hastening with all speed to their several homes. A flight of the foreign traders and visitors may also be glanced at. As a sheep that no man taketh up; rather, as sheep with none to gather them. 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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