I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, said the LORD of hosts.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I will also make it a possession for the bittern . . .—Naturalists are not agreed as to the meaning of the noun. In the LXX. and Vulgate it appears as “hedgehog,” or “porcupine,” and the “tortoise,” “beaver,” “otter,” and “owl” have all been suggested by scholars. Its conjunction with “pelican in Isaiah 34:11 and Zephaniah 2:14, and with” pools of water “here, is in favour of some kind of water-fowl. The “hedgehog” frequents dry places, and not marshes, and does not roost, as in Zephaniah 2:14, on the capitals of ruined columns. On the whole, therefore, “bittern” (Botaurus stellaris) may as well stand.
Pools of water.—These were the natural result of the breaking up of the canals, sluices, reservoirs, which had kept the overflow of the Euphrates within bounds (Diod. Sic., ii. 7).
I will sweep it with the besom of destruction . . .—The phrase has its parallel in the “sieve of vanity,” in Isaiah 30:28. (Comp. Isaiah 34:11) The force of the image must not be lost sight of Babylon is to be swept away as men sweep away some foul rubbish from their house. The world is cleaner for its destruction. The solemn doom closes the “burden” of Babylon.Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14. According to Bochart and Gesenius, it means the hedgehog. It has been variously rendered. Some have supposed it to be a land animal; some an aquatic animal; and most have regarded it as a fowl. Bochart has proved that the hedgehog or porcupine is found on the shores of the Euphrates. He translates this place, 'I will place Babylon for an habitation of the porcupine, even the pools of water;' that is, the pools that are round about Babylon shall become so dry that porcupines may dwell there (see Bochart, "Hieroz." iii. 36. pp. 1036-1042).
And pools of water - Bochart supposes this means, even the pools of water shall become dry. But the common interpretation is to be preferred, that Babylon itself should become filled with pools of water. This was done by Cyrus' directing the waters of the Euphrates from their channel when the city was taken, and by the fact that the waters never returned again to their natural bed, so that the region was overflowed with water (see the notes at Isaiah 13.)
pools—owing to Cyrus turning the waters of the Euphrates over the country.
besom—sweep-net [Maurer], (1Ki 14:10; 2Ki 21:13).The bittern; a great water fowl, which thrusting its bill into some broken reed, or hollow thing, makes a great noise; which also delights in solitary places, as also in waterish grounds, such as those were about Babylon. Others render the word hedge-hog, or porcupine; but this being not considerable in itself, nor at all necessary for the clearing of the text, I shall not trouble the English reader with any discourse about it; and the learned may consult my Latin Synopsis.
Pools of water: the ground about Babylon was of itself very moist and waterish, because of the great river Euphrates running by it, which was kept from overflowing the country with charge and labour; which being neglected, as it must needs be when the city was destroyed and dispeopled, it was easily turned into pools of water. Revelation 18:2,
and pools of water; Babylon being situated in a marshy ground, and by the river Euphrates; and when that river was turned by Cyrus (i), and afterwards its banks neglected, in course of time the water overflowed the place where the city was, and all about it, and so easily came to be what is here predicted it should; see Revelation 18:21,
and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts; and so clear it at once of all its inhabitants, wealth, and riches, and entirely remove its large walls and stately buildings, no more to be seen, just as a house is swept clean of all its dust; intimating, that this superb city, and all belonging to it, should be reduced to dust, and be as easily swept away as dust is with a besom. The word for "sweep", and a "besom", is only used in this place, and has this signification in the Arabic language; it is said in the Talmud (k), that the Rabbins knew not the meaning of this word, till they heard an Arabian girl say to her fellow servant,
"take this besom, and sweep the house.''
expressing the word here used.I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)23. the bittern] (ch. Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14). Usually rendered “hedgehog” (R.V. porcupine) in accordance with the LXX. and Vulg. and the analogy of Arabic. The bittern certainly suits the scene best, and it is said to have the hedgehog’s trick of rolling itself up into an unrecognisable mass. (Tristram, Natural History of the Bible, p. 243.)
pools of water] marshes, caused by the overflow of the Euphrates when the dykes and canals were no longer kept in repair.Verse 23. - A possession for the bittern. Some water-bird or other is probably intended, since the word used is joined in Isaiah 36:11 with the names of three other birds, and is also certainly a bird's name in Zephaniah 2:14; but the identification with the "bittern" is a mere guess, and rests on no authority. And pools of water. The swampy character of the country about the ruins of Babylon is generally noticed by travelers. It arises from neglect of the dams along the course of the Euphrates. Ker Porter says that "large deposits of the Euphrates water are left stagnant in the hollows between the ruins" ('Travels,' vol. 2. p. 389). Isaiah 14:17 must refer, according to a constructio ad sensum, to the world as changed into a wilderness (midbâr). Pâthach, to open, namely locks and fetters; here, with baithâh, it is equivalent to releasing or letting go (syn. shillēach, Jeremiah 50:33). By the "prisoners" the Jewish exiles are principally intended; and it was their release that had never entered the mind of the king of Babylon.
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