Isaiah 14:30
And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill your root with famine, and he shall slay your remnant.
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(30) And the firstborn of the poor shall feed.—As the “children of the needy” in Psalm 72:4 are simply the poor as a class, so the “firstborn” are those who, as it were, inherit the double portion, not of riches, but of poverty. (Comp. “the firstborn of death” in Job 18:13.) The people spoken of are those of Judah, which in the days of Ahaz had been “brought very low” (2Chronicles 28:19). For these the prophet foretells a time of plenty; not so for Philistia. Either through the sieges of their towns or the devastation of their fields, they would be reduced to the last extremities of famine. With them there should be no “remnant” to return.

Isaiah 14:30. And the firstborn of the poor — Those who are most remarkably poor; shall feed — Shall have plenty of provisions, in spite of all thy attempts against them. The same Hezekiah, who shall be such a scourge to thee, Palestina, shall be a mild and gracious governor to his own subjects; he shall take care of them as a shepherd does of his flock, and relieve those who were oppressed in his father’s time. It is probable, that the inhabitants of the southern parts of Judea, who were particularly exposed to the incursions of the Philistines, the Idumeans, and the Arabs, are chiefly meant here by the firstborn of the poor: and concerning these the prophet foretels, that under Hezekiah’s government they should have food and security for themselves and flocks. And I will kill thy root, &c. — When the root is killed, the plant or tree is wholly destroyed. The meaning therefore is, I will utterly destroy thee, both root and branch, so that there shall be no remnant of thy people reserved, as it follows. This utter extirpation of the Philistines, here threatened, was begun by Hezekiah, and was completed by famine and various calamities, which came upon them afterward.14:28-32 Assurance is given of the destruction of the Philistines and their power, by famine and war. Hezekiah would be more terrible to them than Uzziah had been. Instead of rejoicing, there would be lamentation, for the whole land would be ruined. Such destruction will come upon the proud and rebellious, but the Lord founded Zion for a refuge to poor sinners, who flee from the wrath to come, and trust in his mercy through Christ Jesus. Let us tell all around of our comforts and security, and exhort them to seek the same refuge and salvation.And the first-born of the poor shall feed - That is, there shall be safety to those parts of Judah which have long been exposed to the invasions of the Philistines. Philistia bordered on Judea, and was constantly making wars upon it, so that there was no safety felt. Isaiah now says, that Hezekiah would so effectually and completely subdue them that there should be no danger from their invasion. The phrase 'the first-born of the poor' is an Hebraism, a strong, emphatic expression, denoting those who are the most poor; the most abject sons of poverty; those who have an eminence or a double portion of need, as the first-born among the Hebrews were entitled to special distinctions and privileges. The idea is, that even the most poor and defenseless would be safe.

Shall feed - That is, they shall be supplied with food; they shall feed safely as a flock does that is guarded from wild beasts. They shall be no longer alarmed, but shall dwell in security, peace, and plenty.

And I will kill thy root - The word rendered 'root' denotes properly the root of a plant, which being dried up or killed, the plant of course withers and dies. So God says that he would effectually and entirely destroy the power of the Philistines.

Slay thy remnant - That is, shall slay all that pertains to thee. Or, he shall dry up the root, and the branches shall wither and die also. The whole power of the nation shall be withered and destroyed.

30. first-born of … poor—Hebraism, for the most abject poor; the first-born being the foremost of the family. Compare "first-born of death" (Job 18:13), for the most fatal death. The Jews, heretofore exposed to Philistine invasions and alarms, shall be in safety. Compare Ps 72:4, "Children of the needy," expressing those "needy in condition."

feed—image from a flock feeding in safety.

root—radical destruction.

He shall slay—Jehovah shall. The change of person, "He" after "I," is a common Hebraism.

The first-born of the poor; the people of the Jews, who are brought to extreme poverty by the cruelty and the malice of other enemies. The first-born were the chief of all the children. Hence the title of first-born is given to persons or things which are most eminent in their kinds, as to the people of Israel, Exodus 4:22, to David, Psalm 89:27, to a grievous death, Job 18:13, and here to persons eminently poor.

Shall feed; shall have plenty of provisions, in spite of all thine attempts against them.

I will kill thy root; I will utterly destroy thee both root and branch, so that there shall not be a remnant of thy people reserved, as it follows. It is a metaphor from a tree, which for want of nourishment is dried up by the roots. And the firstborn of the poor shall feed,.... That is, the Jews, who were brought very low in the times of Ahaz, reduced to the greatest straits and difficulties; for so the word "firstborn" may signify the chief, or those who were of all the poorest, and in the greatest distress; these, in the times of Hezekiah, shall enjoy abundance of good things, and under his gentle government shall feed like a flock of sheep in good pastures; this signifying, that though he should be like a serpent, harmful to his enemies, yet should be kind and tender unto, and take great care of his own subjects, and under whom they should have great plenty and prosperity:

and the needy shall lie down in safety; like a flock of sheep, secure from beasts of prey, under the care of a faithful and vigilant shepherd; this shows that the Jews should not only have plenty of good things, but should live in the greatest security, without fear of any enemy, or danger from them:

and I will kill thy root with famine; this is said to Palestine, compared to a tree, whose root is dried up for want of moisture, and so dies; and the meaning is, that a sore famine should rage in their country, and utterly destroy them:

and he shall slay thy remnant: that is, Hezekiah should slay with the sword those that were left of the famine.

And the {s} firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and {t} he shall slay thy remnant.

(s) The Israelites who were brought to most extreme misery.

(t) That is, my people.

30. While Philistia is utterly destroyed, Israel enjoys perfect security under Jehovah’s protection (see Isaiah 14:32).

the firstborn of the poor] must be explained as a superlative—“the poorest of the poor.” But many commentators prefer, by slightly altering the word for “firstborn,” to read “in my meadow the poor shall feed” (cf. Isaiah 30:23).

he shall slay] In spite of the change of person, the subject is still Jehovah, not the Assyrian. Or the verb might be equivalent to a passive, as in R.V. (“shall be slain”).Verse 30. - The firstborn of the poor shall feed. The "firstborn of the poor" are the very poor (Jarchi, Rosenmüller). The refer-once is to the poor Israelites, who will "feed" and "lie down in safety" when Philistia is held in subjection. I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant. God kills with famine, man with the sword (see 2 Samuel 24:13, 14). When the Philistines had resisted behind their strong walls till hunger had done its work by thinning their ranks, the Assyrian conqueror would storm their strongholds and slaughter "the remnant." There now follows, apparently out of all connection, another prophecy against Asshur. It is introduced here quite abruptly, like a fragment; and it is an enigma how it got here, and what it means here, though not an enigma without solution. This short Assyrian passage reads as follows. "Jehovah of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, that takes place; to break Asshur to pieces in my land, and upon my mountain will I tread him under foot: then his yoke departs from them, and his burden will depart from their neck. This is the purpose that is purposed over the whole earth; and this the hand that is stretched out over all nations. For Jehovah of hosts hath purposed, and who could bring it to nought? And His hand that is stretched out, who can turn it back?" It is evidently a totally different judicial catastrophe which is predicted here, inasmuch as the world-power upon which it falls is not called Babel or Chasdim, but Asshur, which cannot possibly be taken as a name for Babylon (Abravanel, Lowth, etc.). Babylon is destroyed by the Medes, whereas Asshur falls to ruin in the mountain-land of Jehovah, which it is seeking to subjugate - a prediction which was literally fulfilled. And only when this had taken place did a fitting occasion present itself for a prophecy against Babel, the heiress of the ruined Assyrian power. Consequently the two prophecies against Babel and Asshur form a hysteron-proteron as they stand here. The thought which occasioned this arrangement, and which it is intended to set forth, is expressed by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 50:18-19, "Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria." The one event was a pledge of the other. At a time when the prophecy against Assyria had actually been fulfilled, the prophet attached it to the still unfulfilled prophecy against Babylon, to give a pledge of the fulfilment of the latter. This was the pedestal upon which the Massâh Bâbel was raised. And it was doubly suited for this, on account of its purely epilogical tone from Isaiah 14:26 onwards.
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