Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Shall all hands be faint.—Better, be slack, hanging down in the helpless despondency of the terror which the next clause paints (Hebrews 12:12).
(7) They shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth.—The image of powerless agony occurs both in earlier and later prophets (Hosea 13:3; Micah 5:9; Jeremiah 6:24, et al.). Perhaps the most striking parallelism is found in Psalm 48:6, probably, like the other psalms of the sons of Korah, contemporary with Isaiah.
Their faces shall be as flames.—The comparison seems at first to describe those who cause terror rather than those that feel it. What is described is, however, the moment of horror, when the dejected pallor of ordinary fear flashes into a new intensity, and the eyeballs glare, and the face glows as with a terrible brightness.Jeremiah 50:43 : 'The king of Babylon hath heard the report of them, and his hands waxed feeble; anguish took hold of him, and pangs as of a Women in travail;' Ezekiel 7:17; Zephaniah 3:16).
And every man's heart shall melt - Or, shall faint, so that he shall have no courage or strength (compare Deuteronomy 20:8). The fact was, that the destruction of Babylon took place in the night. It came suddenly upon the city, while Belshazzar was at his impious feast; and the alarm was so unexpected and produced such consternation, that no defense was attempted (see Daniel 5:30; compare the notes at Isaiah 45:1).Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. “Hands hanging down” and “hearts melting” are frequent images of despair (ch. Isaiah 19:1; Ezekiel 21:7; Job 4:3; Joshua 7:5, &c.).Verse 7. - Therefore shall all hands be faint (comp. Jeremiah 1:43; Ezekiel 7:17; Zephaniah 3:16). There shall be a general inaction and apathy. Recently discovered accounts of the capture of Babylon by Cyrus show a great want of activity and vigor on the part of the defenders. Every man's heart shall melt (comp. Deuteronomy 20:8; Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:1, etc.). The general inaction will spring from a general despondency. This statement agrees much better with the recently discovered documents than does the statement of Herodotus, that, safe within their walls, the Babylonians despised their assailants, and regarded themselves as perfectly secure. Isaiah 13:1, "Oracle concerning Babel, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see," shows that chapter 13 forms the commencement of another part of the whole book. Massâh (from נסא), efferre, then effari, Exodus 20:7) signifies, as we may see from 2 Kings 9:25, effatum, the verdict or oracle, more especially the verdict of God, and generally, perhaps always, the judicial sentence of God,
(Note: In Zechariah 12:1. the promise has, at any rate, a dark side. In Lamentations 2:14 there is no necessity to think of promises in connection with the mas'oth; and Proverbs 30:1 and Proverbs 31:1 cannot help us to determine the prophetic use of the word.)
though without introducing the idea of onus (burden), which is the rendering adopted by the Targum, Syriac, Vulgate, and Luther, notwithstanding the fact that, according to Jeremiah 23:33., it was the scoffers who associated this idea with the word. In a book which could throughout be traced to Isaiah, there could be no necessity for it to be particularly stated, that it was to Isaiah that the oracle was revealed, of which Babel was the object. We may therefore see from this, that the prophecy relating to Babylon was originally complete in itself, and was intended to be issued in that form. But when the whole book was compiled, these headings were retained as signal-posts of the separate portions of which it was composed. Moreover, in the case before us, the retention of the heading may be regarded as a providential arrangement. For if this "oracle of Babel" lay before us in a separate form, and without the name of Isaiah, we should not dare to attribute it to him, for the simple reason that the overthrow of the Chaldean empire is here distinctly announced, and that at a time when the Assyrian empire was still standing. For this reason the majority of critics, from the time of Rosenmller and Justi downwards, have regarded the spuriousness of the prophecy as an established fact. But the evidence which can be adduced in support of the testimony contained in the heading is far too strong for it to be set aside: viz., (1.) the descriptive style as well as the whole stamp of the prophecy, which resembles the undisputed prophecies of Isaiah in a greater variety of points than any passage that can be selected from any other prophet. We will show this briefly, but yet amply, and as far as the nature of an exposition allows, against Knobel and others who maintain the opposite. And (2.) the dependent relation of Zephaniah and Jeremiah - a relation which the generally admitted muse-like character of the former, and the imitative character of the latter, render it impossible to invert. Both prophets show that they are acquainted with this prophecy of Isaiah, as indeed they are with all those prophecies which are set down as spurious. Sthelin, in his work on the Messianic prophecies (Excursus iv), has endeavoured to make out that the derivative passages in question are the original passages; but stat pro ratione voluntas. Now, as the testimony of the heading is sustained by such evidence as this, the one argument adduced on the other side, that the prophecy has no historical footing in the circumstances of Isaiah's times, cannot prove anything at all. No doubt all prophecy rested upon an existing historical basis. But we must not expect to be able to point this out in the case of every single prophecy. In the time of Hezekiah, as Isaiah 39:1-8 clearly shows (compare Micah 4:10), Isaiah had become spiritually certain of this, that the power by which the final judgment would be inflicted upon Judah would not be Asshur, but Babel, i.e., an empire which would have for its centre that Babylon, which was already the second capital of the Assyrian empire and the seat of kings who, though dependent then, were striving hard for independence; in other words, a Chaldean empire. Towards the end of his course Isaiah was full of this prophetic thought; and from it he rose higher and higher to the consoling discovery that Jehovah would avenge His people upon Babel, and redeem them from Babel, just as surely as from Asshur. The fact that so far-reaching an insight was granted to him into the counsels of God, was not merely founded on his own personality, but rested chiefly on the position which he occupied in the midst of the first beginnings of the age of great empires. Consequently, according to the law of the creative intensity of all divinely effected beginnings, he surveyed the whole of this long period as a universal prophet outstripped all his successors down to the time of Daniel, and left to succeeding ages not only such prophecies as those we have already read, which had their basis in the history of his own times and the historical fulfilment of which was not sealed up, but such far distant and sealed prophecies as those which immediately follow. For since Isaiah did not appear in public again after the fifteenth year of Hezekiah, the future, as his book clearly shows, was from that time forth his true home. Just as the apostle says of the New Testament believer, that he must separate himself from the world, and walk in heaven, so the Old Testament prophet separated himself from the present of his own nation, and lived and moved in its future alone.
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