Isaiah 14:4
That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!
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(4) That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon.—The prophet appears once more (comp. Isaiah 5:1; Isaiah 12:1) in his character as a psalmist. In the mashal or taunting-song that follows, the generic meaning of “proverb” is specialised (as in Micah 2:4; Habakkuk 2:6; Deuteronomy 28:37, 1Kings 9:7, and elsewhere) for a derisive utterance in poetic or figurative speech. The LXX., singularly enough, renders the word here by “lamentation.”

How hath the oppressor ceased.—If we take “the golden city” of the English version as the correct rendering, it finds a parallel in the epithet of “gold abounding” applied to Babylon by Æschylus (Pers. 53). The word so translated is, however, not found elsewhere, and the general consensus of recent critics, following in the wake of the Targum and the LXX., is in favour of the rendering, the task-master, or the place of torture. The Vulgate, how has the tribute ceased, expresses substantially the same thought. The marginal reading, exactress of gold, seems like an attempt to combine two different etymologies.

14:1-23 The whole plan of Divine Providence is arranged with a view to the good of the people of God. A settlement in the land of promise is of God's mercy. Let the church receive those whom God receives. God's people, wherever their lot is cast, should endeavour to recommend religion by a right and winning conversation. Those that would not be reconciled to them, should be humbled by them. This may be applied to the success of the gospel, when those were brought to obey it who had opposed it. God himself undertakes to work a blessed change. They shall have rest from their sorrow and fear, the sense of their present burdens, and the dread of worse. Babylon abounded in riches. The king of Babylon having the absolute command of so much wealth, by the help of it ruled the nations. This refers especially to the people of the Jews; and it filled up the measure of the king of Babylon's sins. Tyrants sacrifice their true interest to their lusts and passions. It is gracious ambition to covet to be like the Most Holy, for he has said, Be ye holy, for I am holy; but it is sinful ambition to aim to be like the Most High, for he has said, He who exalts himself shall be abased. The devil thus drew our first parents to sin. Utter ruin should be brought upon him. Those that will not cease to sin, God will make to cease. He should be slain, and go down to the grave; this is the common fate of tyrants. True glory, that is, true grace, will go up with the soul to heaven, but vain pomp will go down with the body to the grave; there is an end of it. To be denied burial, if for righteousness' sake, may be rejoiced in, Mt 5:12. But if the just punishment of sin, it denotes that impenitent sinners shall rise to everlasting shame and contempt. Many triumphs should be in his fall. God will reckon with those that disturb the peace of mankind. The receiving the king of Babylon into the regions of the dead, shows there is a world of spirits, to which the souls of men remove at death. And that souls have converse with each other, though we have none with them; and that death and hell will be death and hell indeed, to all who fall unholy, from the height of this world's pomps, and the fulness of its pleasures. Learn from all this, that the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned. The royal city is to be ruined and forsaken. Thus the utter destruction of the New Testament Babylon is illustrated, Re 18:2. When a people will not be made clean with the besom of reformation, what can they expect but to be swept off the face of the earth with the besom of destruction?That thou shalt take up - Thou shalt utter, declare, or commence. The word 'take up,' is used in the sense of utter, speak, or declare, in Exodus 20:7; Exodus 23:1; Psalm 15:2.

This proverb - (המשׁל hamâshâl). Vulgate, 'Parable.' Septuagint Τὸν ρῆνον ton thrēnon - 'Lamentation.' The Hebrew word משׁל mâshâl, usually rendered "proverb," is also rendered "a parable," or "a by-word." It properly denotes "a metaphor, a comparison, a similitude;" and is applied usually to a brief and pungent sentiment or maxim, where wisdom is embodied in few words. In these the ancients abounded. They had few books; and hence arose the necessity of condensing as much as possible the sentiments of wisdom, that they might be easily remembered, and transmitted to future times. These maxims were commonly expressed in figurative language, or by a brief comparison, or short parable, as they are with us. The word also means, figurative discourse generally; and hence, a song or poem Numbers 23:7, Numbers 23:18; Job 27:1; Job 29:1; Psalm 49:5. It is also used to denote a satire, or a song of triumph over enemies Micah 2:4; Hebrews 4:6; Joel 2:17. It is evidently used in this sense here - to denote a taunting speech, a song of triumph over the prostrate king of Babylon. In this beautiful song, there are all the elements of the most pungent satire, and all the beauties of the highest poetry.

Against the king of Babylon - Over the king of Babylon, or in regard to him. It is not certain that any particular king of Babylon is here intended. If there was, it was probably Belshazzar, in whose reign the city was taken (see the notes at Isaiah 14:22). It may, however, be designed to denote the Babylonian empire - the kingdom that had oppressed the Jews; and thus the king may be referred to as the head of the nation, and as the representative of the whole people.

How hath the oppressor ceased! - The word 'oppressor' (נגשׂ nogēs') denotes, properly, the "exactor of tribute," and refers here to the fact that Babylon had oppressed its dependent provinces, by exacting large revenues from them, and thus cruelly oppressing them.

Ceased - Ceased to exact tribute; or (Hebrew) 'is at rest.' It is now at rest, and no more puts forth its power in oppressing its dependent provinces.

The golden city - Babylon. The word used here (מדהבה madehēbâh) occurs nowhere else in the Bible. According to the Jewish Commentators, it means "an exactress of gold," as if derived from דהב dehab, used for זהב zehab, gold. Gesenius and Michaelis prefer another reading (מרהבה marehēbâh), from (רהב râhab), and suppose that it means oppression. The Vulgate renders it "tribute" - 'The tribute hath ceased.' The Septuagint Ἐπισπουδαστής Epispoudastēs - 'Solicitor, or exactor (of gold).' Vitringa supposes that the word means "gold," and that it refers to the golden scepter of its kings that had now ceased to be swayed over the prostrate nations. The most probable sense is, that it means the exactress of gold, or of tribute. This best expresses the force of the word, and best agrees with the parallelism. In this sense it does not refer to the magnificence of the city, but to its oppressive acts in demanding tribute of gold from its dependent provinces.

Isa 14:4-23. The Jews' Triumphal Song Thereat.

"It moves in lengthened elegiac measure like a song of lamentation for the dead, and is full of lofty scorn" [Herder].

Isa 14:4-8. A Chorus of Jews Express Their Joyful Surprise at Babylon's Downfall.

The whole earth rejoices; the cedars of Lebanon taunt him.

4. proverb—The Orientals, having few books, embodied their thoughts in weighty, figurative, briefly expressed gnomes. Here a taunting song of triumph (Mic 2:4; Hab 2:6).

the king—the ideal representative of Babylon; perhaps Belshazzar (Da 5:1-31). The mystical Babylon is ultimately meant.

golden city—rather, "the exactress of gold" [Maurer]. But the old translators read differently in the Hebrew, "oppression," which the parallelism favors (compare Isa 3:5).

Shalt take up into thy mouth, as it is fully expressed, Psalm 50:16.

How hath the oppressor ceased! this is spoken by way of astonishment and triumph. Who would have thought this possible?

The golden city, as they used to call themselves; which therefore he expresseth here in a word of their own language.

That thou shall take up this proverb against the king of Babylon,.... Or "concerning" him, his fall, and the fall of the Babylonish monarchy with him; if we understand this of any particular king of Babylon, it seems best not to interpret it of Nebuchadnezzar, whom Jerom mentions, in whom the empire was in its greatest glory: but of Belshazzar, in whom it ended; the king of Babylon may be here considered as a type of antichrist, and what is said of the one may be applied to the other: the "proverb" or "parable" taken up into the mouth, and expressed concerning him, signifies a sharp and acute speech, a taunting one, full of ironies and sarcasms, and biting expressions, as the following one is. The Septuagint render it, a "lamentation"; and the Arabic version, a "mournful song"; but as this was to be taken up by the church and people of God, concerning their great enemy, whose destruction is here described, it may rather be called a triumphant song, rejoicing at his ruin, and insulting over him:

and say, how hath the oppressor ceased! he who oppressed us, and other nations, exacted tribute of us, and of others, and made us to serve with hard bondage, how is he come to nothing? by what means is he brought to ruin; by whom is this accomplished? who has been the author of it, and by whom effected? this is said as wondering how it should be brought about, and rejoicing that so it was:

the golden city ceased! the city of Babylon, full of gold, drawn thither from the various parts of the world, called a golden cup, Jeremiah 51:7 and the Babylonish monarchy, in the times of Nebuchadnezzar, was signified by a golden head, Daniel 2:32 so mystical Babylon, or the Romish antichrist, is represented as decked with gold, and having a golden cup in her hand; and as a city abounding with gold, Revelation 17:4. The word here used is a Chaldee or Syriac word (x), and perhaps is what was used by themselves, and is the name by which they called this city, and is now tauntingly returned; the word city is not in the text, but supplied. Some render "tribute" (y), a golden pension, a tribute of gold, which was exacted of the nations in subjection, but now ceased; and when that tyrant and oppressor, the Romish antichrist, shall cease that tribute which he exacts of the nations of the earth will cease also, as tithes, first fruits, annates, Peter's pence, &c.

(x) (y) "Tributum", V. L. Cocceius; "aurea pensio", Montanus; "aurum tributarium", Munster.

That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!
4. this proverb] The Hebrew word (mâshâl) is used in a variety of senses. Originally signifying a similitude, it came naturally to denote a popular proverb or gnomic saying, and finally acquired the sense of a satire or taunt-song, as here (Habakkuk 2:6; Numbers 21:27). In ancient Israel wit seems to have passed into sarcasm as readily as in more recent times. The poem which follows might with equal propriety be described as a dirge (qînah, θρῆνος in LXX.), commencing as it does with the characteristic word ’êkh, and exhibiting the peculiarity of the elegiac measure (the line is broken by a cæsura in such a manner that the second member is shorter than the first. See on ch. Isaiah 1:21). Such ironical elegies are common in the prophets of the exile. Another striking example will meet us in ch. 47.

4. The line may be rendered:

How is the oppressor stilled,—stilled the insolent rage!

The translation golden city is an attempt to render the received text, but can hardly be justified. All the ancient versions read instead of madhçbâh, marhçbâh, a word which combines the ideas of restlessness and insolence (see ch. Isaiah 3:5).

4b8. The first strophe is like a sigh of relief breathed by the whole of creation, when the disturber of its peace has vanished from the scene.

4b21. The song of triumph over the king of Babylon is one of the finest specimens of Hebrew poetry which the Old Testament contains. A division into five strophes, each containing seven long lines, is distinctly recognisable, and the occasional deviations from strict symmetry of form are probably due to defects in the text.

Verse 4. - Thou shalt take up this proverb; rather, this parable, as the word is translated in Numbers 23, and 24; in Job 26:1; Job 29:1; Psalm 49:4; Psalm 78:2; Ezekiel 17:2; Ezekiel 20:49; Ezekiel 21:5; Ezekiel 24:3; Micah 2:4; Habakkuk 2:6; or "this taunting speech," as our translators render in the margin (see Cheyne, ad loc.; and comp. Hebrews 2:6). The golden city. There are two readings here - mad-hebah and marhebah. The latter reading was preferred anciently, and is followed by the LXX., the Syriac and Chaldee Versions, the Targums, Ewald, Gesenius, and Mr. Cheyne. It would give the meaning of" the raging one." Madhebah, however, is preferred by Rosenmüller, Vitringa, and Dr. Kay. It is supposed to mean "golden," from d'hab, the Chaldee form of the Hebrew zahob, gold. But the question is pertinent - Why should a Chaldee form have been used by a Hebrew writer ignorant of Chaldee and Chaldea? Isaiah 14:4The song of the redeemed is a song concerning the fall of the king of Babel. Isaiah 14:3, Isaiah 14:4. Instead of the hiphil hinniach (to let down) of Isaiah 14:1, we have here, as in the original passage, Deuteronomy 25:19, the form hēniach, which is commonly used in the sense of quieting, or procuring rest. עצב is trouble which plagues (as עמל is trouble which oppresses), and rōgez restlessness which wears out with anxious care (Job 3:26, cf., Ezekiel 12:18). The assimilated min before the two words is pronounced mĭ, with a weak reduplication, instead of mē, as elsewhere, before ח, ה, and even before ר (1 Samuel 23:28; 2 Samuel 18:16). In the relative clause עבּד־בך אשר, אשר is not the Hebrew casus adverb. answering to the Latin ablative qu servo te usi sunt; not do בך ... אשר belong to one another in the sense of quo, as in Deuteronomy 21:3, qu (vitul); but it is regarded as an acc. obj. according to Exodus 1:14 and Leviticus 25:39, qu'on t'a fait servir, as in Numbers 32:5, qu'on donne la terre (Luzzatto). When delivered from such a yoke of bondage, Israel would raise a mâshâl. According to its primary and general meaning, mâshâl signifies figurative language, and hence poetry generally, more especially that kind of proverbial poetry which loves the emblematical, and, in fact, any artistic composition that is piquant in its character; so that the idea of what is satirical or defiant may easily be associated with it, as in the passage before us.

The words are addressed to the Israel of the future in the Israel of the present, as in Isaiah 12:1. The former would then sing, and say as follows. "How hath the oppressor ceased! The place of torture ceased! Jehovah hath broken the rod of the wicked, the ruler's staff, which cmote nations in wrath with strokes without ceasing subjugated nations wrathfully with hunting than nevers stays." Not one of the early translators ever thought of deriving the hap. leg. madhebâh from the Aramaean dehab (gold), as Vitringa, Aurivillius, and Rosenmller have done. The former have all translated the word as if it were marhēbâh (haughty, violent treatment), as corrected by J. D. Michaelis, Doederlein, Knobel, and others. But we may arrive at the same result without altering a single letter, if we take דּאב as equivalent to דּהב, דּוּב, to melt or pine away, whether we go back to the kal or to the hiphil of the verb, and regard the Mem as used in a material or local sense. We understand it, according to madmenah (dunghill) in Isaiah 25:10, as denoting the place where they were reduced to pining away, i.e., as applied to Babylon as the house of servitude where Israel had been wearied to death. The tyrant's sceptre, mentioned in Isaiah 14:5, is the Chaldean world-power regarded as concentrated in the king of Babel (cf., shēbet in Numbers 24:17). This tyrant's sceptre smote nations with incessant blows and hunting: maccath is construed with macceh, the derivative of the same verb; and murdâph, a hophal noun (as in Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 29:3), with rodeh, which is kindred in meaning. Doederlein's conjecture (mirdath), which has been adopted by most modern commentators, is quite unnecessary. Unceasing continuance is expressed first of all with bilti, which is used as a preposition, and followed by sârâh, a participial noun like câlâh, and then with b'li, which is construed with the finite verb as in Genesis 31:20; Job 41:18; for b'li châsâk is an attributive clause: with a hunting which did not restrain itself, did not stop, and therefore did not spare. Nor is it only Israel and other subjugated nations that now breathe again.

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