The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked . . .—The “staff” and the “sceptre” are alike symbols of power, the former being that on which a man supports himself, the other that which he wields in his arm to smite those who oppose him.
The staff of the wicked - That is, the scepter of the king of Babylon. The word rendered 'staff' (מטה maṭēh) may mean either a bough, stick, staff, rod, or a scepter. The scepter was the symbol of supreme power. It was in the form of a staff, and was made of wood, ivory, or gold. It here means that Yahweh had taken away the power from Babylon, and destroyed his dominion.
rulers—tyrants, as the parallelism "the wicked" proves (compare see on Isa 13:2).
and the sceptre of the rulers; that were under the king of Babylon; or of the several kings themselves, Nebuchadnezzar, Evilmerodach, and Belshazzar; so Kimchi interprets it. This may be applied to the kingdom of antichrist, and the antichristian states, which shall be broken to shivers as a potter's vessel by Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, Revelation 2:27. The "staff" and "sceptre" are emblems of power and government; and "breaking" them signifies the utter destruction and cessation of authority and dominion.The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)5. the rulers] here used in the sense of tyrants.Verse 5. - The staff... the scepter. Symbols of Babylonian power (scrap. Isaiah 10:5). Isaiah 34:16-17. There the certainty of the prediction, even in its most minute particulars, is firmly declared; here the nearness of the time of fulfilment. But the fulfilment did not take place so soon as the words of the prophecy might make it appear. According to Herodotus, Cyrus, the leader of the Medo-Persian army, left the city still standing, with its double ring of walls. Darius Hystaspis, who had to conquer Babylon a second time in 518 b.c., had the walls entirely destroyed, with the exception of fifty cubits. Xerxes gave the last thrust to the glory of the temple of Belus. Having been conquered by Seleucus Nicator (312), it declined just in proportion as Seleucia rose. Babylon, says Pliny, ad solitudinem rediit exhausta vicinitate Seleuciae. At the time of Strabo (born 60 b.c.) Babylon was a perfect desert; and he applies to it (16:15) the words of the poet, ἐρημία μεγάλη ̓στὶν ἡ μεγάλη πόλις. Consequently, in the passage before us the prophecy falls under the law of perspective foreshortening. But all that it foretells has been literally fulfilled. The curse that Babylon would never come to be settled in and inhabited again (a poetical expression, like Jeremiah 17:25; Jeremiah 33:16), proved itself an effectual one, when Alexander once thought of making Babylon the metropolis of his empire. He was carried off by an early death. Ten thousand workmen were at that time employed for two months in simply clearing away the rubbish of the foundations of the temple of Belus (the Nimrod-tower). "Not an Arab pitches his tent there" (‛Arâbi, from ‛Arâbâh, a steppe, is used here for the first time in the Old Testament, and then again in Jeremiah 3:2; yăhēl, different from yâhēl in Isaiah 13:10 and Job 31:26, is a syncopated form of יאהל, tentorium figet, according to Ges. 68, Anm. 2, used instead of the customary יאהל): this was simply the natural consequence of the great field of ruins, upon which there was nothing but the most scanty vegetation. But all kinds of beasts of the desert and waste places make their homes there instead. The list commences with ziyyim (from zi, dryness, or from ziyi, an adj. relat. of the noun zi), i.e., dwellers in the desert; the reference here is not to men, but, as in most other instances, to animals, though it is impossible to determine what are the animals particularly referred to. That ochim are horned owls (Uhus) is a conjecture of Aurivillius, which decidedly commends itself. On benoth ya‛ănâh, see at Job 39:13-18. Wetzstein connects ya‛ănâh with an Arabic word for desert; it is probably more correct, however, to connect it with the Syriac יענא, greedy. The feminine plural embraces ostriches of both sexes, just as the 'iyyim (sing. אי equals אוי, from 'âvâh, to howl: see Bernstein's Lex. on Kirsch's Chrestom. Syr. p. 7), i.e., jackals, are called benât āwa in Arabic, without distinction of sex (awa in this appellation is a direct reproduction of the natural voice of the animal, which is called wawi in vulgar Arabic). Tan has also been regarded since the time of Pococke and Schnurrer as the name of the jackal; and this is supported by the Syriac and Targum rendering yaruro (see Bernstein, p. 220), even more than by the Arabic name of the wolf, tinân, which only occurs here and there. אי, ibnu āwa, is the common jackal found in Hither Asia (Canis aureus vulgaris), the true type of the whole species, which is divided into at least ten varieties, and belongs to the same genus as dogs and wolves (not foxes). Tan may refer to one of these varieties, which derived its name from its distinctive peculiarity as a long-stretched animal, whether the extension was in the trunk, the snout, or the tail.
The animals mentioned, both quadrupeds (râbatz) and birds (shâcan), are really found there, on the soil of ancient Babylon. When Kerporter was drawing near to the Nimrod-tower, he saw lions sunning themselves quietly upon its walls, which came down very leisurely when alarmed by the cries of the Arabs. And as Rich heard in Bagdad, the ruins are still regarded as a rendezvous for ghosts: sâ‛ir, when contrasted with ‛attūd, signifies the full-grown shaggy buck-goat; but here se‛irim is applied to demons in the shape of goats (as in Isaiah 34:14). According to the Scriptures, the desert is the abode of unclean spirits, and such unclean spirits as the popular belief or mythology pictured to itself were se‛irim. Virgil, like Isaiah, calls them saltantes Satyros. It is remarkable also that Joseph Wolf, the missionary and traveller to Bochâra, saw pilgrims of the sect of Yezidis (or devil-worshippers) upon the ruins of Babylon, who performed strange and horrid rites by moonlight, and danced extraordinary dances with singular gestures and sounds. On seeing these ghost-like, howling, moonlight pilgrims, he very naturally recalled to mind the dancing se‛irim of prophecy (see Moritz Wagner's Reise nach Persien und dem Lande der Kurden, Bd. ii. p. 251). And the nightly howling and yelling of jackals (‛ânâh after rikkēd, as in 1 Samuel 18:6-7) produces its natural effect upon every traveller there, just as in all the other ruins of the East. These are now the inhabitants of the royal 'armenoth, which the prophet calls 'almenoth with a sarcastic turn, on account of their widowhood and desolation; these are the inhabitants of the palaces of pleasure, the luxurious villas and country-seats, with their hanging gardens. The Apocalypse, in Revelation 18:2, takes up this prophecy of Isaiah, and applies it to a still existing Babylon, which might have seen itself in the mirror of the Babylon of old.
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