Isaiah 14:9
Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.
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(9) Hell from beneath is moved for thee . . .—“Hell,” or Sheol, is, as elsewhere, the shadow-world, the region of the dead. Into that world the king of Babylon descends. The “dead” and the Rephaim are there, the giant-spectres, now faint and feeble (Deuteronomy 2:11; Deuteronomy 3:11), of departed forms of greatness. The verb (“it stirreth up”), which is masculine, while the noun is feminine, seems to personify Sheol, as Hades is personified in Revelation 20:14. The “chief ones” are, literally, the he-goats, or “bell-wethers” of the flock (Isaiah 34:6; Zechariah 10:3), of which Hades is the shepherd (Psalm 49:14). Even in Sheol the kings of the earth retain their former majesty, and sit on thrones apart from the vulgar dead. In Ezekiel 32:17-32 we have a reproduction of the same imagery, and the kings appear, each with his “weapons of war.” The whole passage finds a striking parallel in the Assyrian legend of the Descent of Ishtar (Records of the Past, i. p. 144), where Hades is described.

“The abode of darkness and famine.

* * * * * *

Night is not seen—in darkness they dwell.

Ghosts, like birds, flutter their wings there.

On the door and gate-posts the dust lies undisturbed.

* * * * * * *

To be the ruler of a palace shall be thy rank;

A throne of state shall be thy seat.”

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?Hell from beneath - The scene is now changed. The prophet had represented the people of all the subject nations as rejoicing that the king of Babylon had fallen, and had introduced even the trees of the forest as breaking forth into joy at this event. He now transfers the scene to the mournful regions of the dead; follows the spirit of the departed king of Babylon - the man who once gloried in the magnificence of his kingdom and his court, and who was more distinguished for pride and arrogance than all other monarchs - down to the land of darkness, and describes his reception there. This portion of the ode is signally sublime, and is managed with great power and skill. It is unequalled, perhaps, by any writings for boldness, majesty, and, at the same time, for its severe sarcasm. The word 'hell' here (שׁאול she'ôl) is rendered by the Vulgate, "infernus;" and by the Septuagint, ὁ ᾅδης ho Hadēs, "Hades."

It properly means the grave, and then the dark regions of the lower world - the region of ghosts and shades a place where thick darkness reigns. The verb from which it is derived means, properly, "to ask, to demand, to require, to seek;" and this name (שׁאול she'ôl) is supposed to have been given to the grave, and to the regions of departed spirits, from the insatiable demand which they are constantly making of the living (see the note at Isaiah 5:14, where the word is explained). The word denotes, says Taylor ("Heb. Con."), 'The underground parts of the earth, otherwise called the nether, or lower parts of the earth; the earth beneath in opposition to the earth above, where people and other animals live. In "sheol" are the foundations of the mountains Deuteronomy 32:22. In "sheol "men penetrate by digging into the earth Amos 9:2. Into "sheol" the roots of trees do strike down Ezekiel 31:16.

Into "sheol," Korah, Dathan, and Abiram went down alive Numbers 16:30, Numbers 16:33. In "sheol" the body is corrupted and consumed by worms Job 17:13-14; Psalm 16:10; Psalm 49:14. They that rest together in the dust are said "to go down to the bars, or strong gates of sheol" Job 17:16. In "sheol" there is no knowledge, nor can any praise God or give thanks there Psalm 6:5; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Isaiah 38:10-11. "Sheol" and the pit, death and corruption, are synonymous Psalm 16:10; Psalm 89:48; Proverbs 1:12; Proverbs 7:27; Ezekiel 31:16; Hosea 13:14. A grave is one particular cavity purposely digged for the interment of a dead person; "sheol" is a collective name for all the graves. He that is in the grave is in "sheol;" but he that is in "sheol" may not be in a grave, but in any pit, or in the sea. In short, it is the region of the dead; which is figuratively considered as a city or large habitation with gates and bars in which there are many chambers Proverbs 7:27.' "Sheol" is never full, but is always asking or craving more Proverbs 27:20; Hebrews 2:5. Here it means, not a place of punishment, but the region of the dead, where the ghosts of the departed are considered as residing together.

From beneath - From beneath the earth. "Sheol" was always represented as being "in" or "under" the ground, and the grave was the avenue or door that led to it (see the note at Isaiah 5:14.)

Is moved for thee - Is roused to meet thee; is surprised that a monarch once so proud and magnificent is descending to it. The image here is taken from the custom of the ancients in burying, especially of burying princes and kings. This was usually done in caves or sepulchres excavated from a rock (see the notes and illustrations on Isaiah 66:4). Mr. Stephens, in his "Travels in Egypt, Arabia Petrea, and the Holy land," has given an account of the manner in which he passed a night in Petra, which may serve to illustrate this passage: 'We ascended the valley, and rising to the summit of the rocky rampart, of Petra, it was almost dark when we found ourselves opposite a range of tombs in the suburbs of the city. Here we dismounted; and selecting from among them one which, from its finish and dimensions, must have been the last abode of some wealthy Edomite, we prepared to pass the night within its walls.

In the front part of it was a large chamber, about twenty-five feet square, and ten feet high; and behind this was another of smaller dimensions, furnished with receptacles of the dead, not arranged after the manner of shelves along the wall, as in the catacombs I had seen in Italy and Egypt, but cut lengthwise in the rock, like ovens, so as to admit the insertion of the body with the feet foremost. My plans for the morrow being all arranged, the Bedouins stretched themselves out in the outer chamber, while I went within; and seeking out a tomb as far back as I could find, I crawled in feet first, and found myself very much in the condition of a man buried alive. I had just room enough to turn round; and the worthy old Edomite for whom the tomb was made, never slept in it more quietly than I did.' (Vol. ii. pp. 82, 83, 86.) To understand the passage before us, we are to form the idea of an immense and gloomy cavern, all around which are niches or cells made to receive the bodies of the dead. In this vast vault monarchs repose in grandeur suitable to their former rank, each on his couch, 'in glory,' with their arms beside them (see Isaiah 14:18). These mighty shades - these departed monarchs - are represented as rising from their couches to meet the descending king of Babylon, and receive him with insults on his fall. The Hebrew word for "moved" denotes more than our translation conveys. It means that they were "agitated" - they "trembled" - they advanced toward the descending monarch with trepidation. The idea of the shades of the mighty dead thus being troubled, and rising to meet the king of Babylon, is one that is exceedingly sublime.

It stireth up - "Sheol" stirreth up; that is, they are stirred up or excited. So the Septuagint renders it 'All the giants who rule the earth rise up to thee.'

The dead - Hebrew, רפאים repā'ı̂ym. The Septuagint renders this, Ὁι γίγαντες hoi gigantes 'giants.' So the Vulgate and the Chaldee, The meaning of this word has been a subject of great difference of opinion among lexicographers. It is sometimes found as a gentile noun to denote the sons of Raphah, called "Rephaim" 2 Samuel 21:16, 2 Samuel 21:18, a Canaanite race of giants that lived beyond Jordan Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20, from whom Og the son of Bashan was descended Deuteronomy 3:11. It is sometimes used to denote all the giant tribes of Canaan Deuteronomy 2:11, Deuteronomy 2:20; and is particularly applied to people of extraordinary strength among the Philistines 2 Samuel 21:16, 2 Samuel 21:18. Vitringa supposes that the term was given to the spirits of the dead on account of the fact that they appeared to be "larqer" than life; that they in their form and stature resembled giants. But a more probable opinion is, that it is applied to the shades of the dead as being weak, feeble, or without power or sensation, from the word רפא râpâ', weak, feeble, powerless. This interpretation is strongly confirmed by the place before us Isaiah 14:10, 'Art thou become weak as we?' The word is rendered 'giants' in the following places: Deuteronomy 2:11, Deuteronomy 2:20; Deuteronomy 3:13; Joshua 21:4; Joshua 15:8; Joshua 17:15; Joshua 18:16; 2 Samuel 21:16, 2 Samuel 21:18, 2 Samuel 21:20, 2 Samuel 21:22; 1 Chronicles 20:5-6, 1 Chronicles 20:8. It is rendered 'Rephaims,' Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20; 2 Samuel 5:18, 2 Samuel 5:22; 2 Samuel 23:13. It is rendered 'the dead' Job 26:5; Psalm 88:10; Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 21:16; Isaiah 26:29; and once it is rendered 'deceased,' Isaiah 26:14. It here means the departed spirits of the dead - the inhabitants of that dark and dismal region, conceived by the Hebrews to be situated beneath the ground, where dwell the departed dead before their final destiny is fixed - called "sheol" or "hades." It is not the residence of the wicked only - the place of punishment - but the place where all the dead are supposed to be congregated before their final doom is pronounced.

(The author entertains unique views of the state of knowledge among the Hebrews regarding the future world - views which will be found fully canvassed in the preface to the volumes on Job. As to the alleged notion of all the dead dwelling in some dismal region before their final doom is pronounced, we have there taken pains to show that the righteous in ancient times entertained no such gloomy expectations. The opinions of the ancient Hebrews on this subject, must be taken from passages in which they expressly treat of it, and intimate plainly what their belief is, and not from passages confessedly full of poetical imagery. Nor are we to construe popular and poetical phraseology so strictly and literally as to form a theological creed out of it, in contradiction to the actual belief of those who daily used that phraseology. Because Englishmen speak of the dead "indiscriminately" as having "gone to the grave," and "to the land of spirits," must we, out of this, construct a Popish purgatory as the national belief?

Yet this would be just as reasonable in the case of the English, as in the case of the Jews. The reader will appreciate the following observations of Professor Alexander on the place: 'Two expressions have been faithfully transcribed by interpreters, from one another, in relation to this passage, with a very equivocal effect upon its exposition. The one is, that it is full of biting sarcasm - an unfortunate suggestion of Calvin's, which puts the reader on the scent for irony, and even wit, instead of opening his mind to impressions of sublimity and tragic grandeur. The other, for which Calvin is in no degree responsible, is, that we have before us not a mere prosopopeia, or poetical creation of the highest order, but a chapter from the popular belief of the Jews, as to the locality, contents, and transactions of the unseen world. Thus Gesenius, in his Lexicon and Commentary, gives a minute topographical description of "Sheol," as the Hebrews believed it to exist.

With equal truth, a diligent compiler might construct a map of hell, as conceived of by the English Puritans, from the descriptive portions of the Paradise Lost. The infidel interpreters of Germany regard the scriptural and Classical mythology precisely in the same light. But when Christian writers copy their expressions or ideas, they should take pains to explain whether the popular belief of which they speak was true or false, and, if false, how it could lie countenanced and sanctioned by inspired writers. This kind of exposition is, moreover, chargeable with a rhetorical incongruity, in landing the creative genius of the poet, and yet making all his grand creations commonplace articles of popular belief. The true view of the matter, as determined both by piety and taste, appears to be, that the passage now before ns comprehends two elements, and only two religious verities or certain facts, and poetical embellishments. The admission of a "tertium quid," in the shape of superstitious fables, is as false in rhetoric as in theology.')

The chief ones of the earth. - Margin, 'Leaders,' or 'great goats.' The Hebrew word means properly "great goats," or goats that are leaders of the flock. Perhaps there is intended to be a slight degree of sarcasm in applying this word to princes and monarchs. It is nowhere else applied to princes, though the word is often used or applied to rams, or to the chief goats of a flock.

From their thrones - In "hades," or "sheol." They are there represented as occupying an eminence similar to that which distinguished them on earth.

Isa 14:9-11. The Scene Changes from Earth to Hell.

Hades (the Amenthes of Egypt), the unseen abode of the departed; some of its tenants, once mighty monarchs, are represented by a bold personification as rising from their seats in astonishment at the descent among them of the humbled king of Babylon. This proves, in opposition to Warburton [The Divine Legation], that the belief existed among the Jews that there was a Sheol or Hades, in which the "Rephaim" or manes of the departed abode.

9. moved—put into agitation.

for thee—that is, "at thee"; towards thee; explained by "to meet thee at thy coming" [Maurer].

chief ones—literally, "goats"; so rams, leaders of the flock; princes (Zec 10:3). The idea of wickedness on a gigantic scale is included (Eze 34:17; Mt 25:32, 33). Magee derives "Rephaim" (English Version, "the dead") from a Hebrew root, "to resolve into first elements"; so "the deceased" (Isa 26:14) "ghosts" (Pr 21:16). These being magnified by the imagination of the living into gigantic stature, gave their name to giants in general (Ge 6:4; 14:5; Eze 32:18, 21). "Rephaim," translated in the Septuagint, "giants" (compare see on [708]Job 26:5, 6). Thence, as the giant Rephaim of Canaan were notorious even in that guilty land, enormous wickedness became connected with the term. So the Rephaim came to be the wicked spirits in Gehenna, the lower of the two portions into which Sheol is divided.

Hell; or, the grave, as the same word is rendered, Isaiah 14:11, and in innumerable other places; to which he elegantly ascribeth sense and speech, as poets and orators frequently do.

The chief ones, Heb. the he-goats; which lead and govern the flock. From their thrones; from their several graves, which he seems to call their thrones by way of irony or derision, the only thrones now left to them. Thrones both paved and covered with worms, as is noted, Isaiah 14:11, instead of their former thrones made of ivory or silver, and adorned with gold and precious stones.

Hell from beneath is moved for thee,.... Or the "grave", or the place and state of the dead, and particularly of the damned, meaning those that are in such a place and state; and the sense is, that not only the inhabitants of the earth, and the trees upon it, express their joy at the fall of the king of Babylon, but those that are under the earth, in the grave, or in hell, are affected with it, and moved on account of it, not with fear and dread, as they were in his and their life time, as Kimchi suggests; but they are represented as in motion, and that as attended with a great noise, because of the multitude of them, upon hearing of his death, and his entrance into the regions of the dead:

to meet thee at thy coming: as kings used to be met when they, and as he used to be when he, entered into any city that was taken, to salute him, and congratulate him upon his entrance into the dark regions of death, the grave, and hell; a biting sarcasm:

it stirreth up the dead for thee; the dead that are in it, in hell or the grave; not to oppose him, but to welcome him into their parts, as being now one of them, and to be joined to their company; hell or the grave is said to rouse them, as if they were asleep, and took no notice of the death of so great a monarch, who was just making his public entry among them. The word "Rephaim", here used, is sometimes rendered "giants", as in Deuteronomy 2:11 and Jarchi interprets it of the Anakim; and so the Targum,

"it raiseth up unto thee mighty men;''

for not the common people among the dead, but the princes and great ones of the earth, whom the Babylonian monarch had subdued and slain, and to whom he was well known, are intended, as appears by what follows:

even all the chief ones of the earth; or the "great goats"; the leaders and commanders of the people, who, as goats go before and lead the flock, so they the people. The Targum calls them

"all the rich in substance;''

who were persons of wealth, power, and authority, when on earth:

it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations; to offer in a jeering manner their thrones to him, who had been obliged, in their life time and his, to surrender to him their crowns, and thrones, and kingdoms; but by their thrones here are meant their sepulchres, built, as many of them were, in great pomp and splendour; for kings at death have no other thrones but their graves. Aben Ezra says, it was the custom of the Babylonians to set thrones in the sepulchres of their kings.

Hell from beneath is moved for thee to {f} meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.

(f) As though they feared, lest you should trouble the dead, as you did the living and here he derides the proud tyranny of the wicked, who know not that all creatures wish their destruction, that they may rejoice.

9. Hell from beneath] Rather, Sheol beneath. It is best to retain the Hebrew name of the under-world (shě’ôl) as is sometimes done by the Revisers, though not in this passage. An almost exact equivalent would be the Greek Hades, For the dead, render the shades (rěphâ’îm) as in R.V. marg.

the chief ones] lit. “the he-goats,” a figurative designation of kings (Jeremiah 1:8; Zechariah 10:3).

9–11. The second strophe forms an effective contrast to the first. He who had so long troubled the earth becomes a disturbing presence in the under-world; the earth is now at rest, Sheol is troubled.

Verse 9. - Hell from beneath. The Hebrew Sheol corresponded nearly to the Greek Hades, and the Latin Inferi. It was a dismal region in the center of the earth, whither departed souls descended, and where they remained thenceforth. There were various depths in it, each apparently more dismal than the preceding; but there is no evidence that it was considered to contain any place of happiness, until after the return from the Captivity. The prophet here represents Sheol as disturbed by the advent of the Babylonian monarch, and as rousing itself to receive him. The great ones of the earth, and the kings, who are kings even in Hades, and sit upon thrones, are especially moved by the occasion, and prepare to meet and greet their brother. Personal identity and continued consciousness of it after death are assumed; and the former earthly rank of the inmates seems to be recognized and maintained. It stirreth up the dead. Hell in the aggregate - the place personified - proceeds to arouse the individual inmates, who are called re-phaim - the word commonly translated "giants" (Deuteronomy 2:11, 20; Deuteronomy 13:12; Joshua 12:4; Joshua 13:12, etc.), but meaning properly "feeble ones." The shades or ghosts of the departed were regarded as weak and nerveless, in comparison with living men (compare the Homeric εἴδωλα καμόντων). All the chief ones; literally, the he-goats (comp. Jeremiah 1:8; Jeremiah 51:40; Zechariah 10:3). Raised up from their thrones; i.e. "caused to rise up from their thrones," and stand in eager expectation of what was about to happen. Isaiah 14:9But whilst it has become so quiet on earth, there is the most violent agitation in the regions below. "The kingdom of the dead below is all in uproar on account of thee, to meet thy coming; it stirreth up the shades for thee, all the he-goats of the earth; it raiseth up from their throne-seats all the kings of the nations." The notion of Hades, notwithstanding the mythological character which it had assumed, was based upon the double truth, that what a man has been, and the manner in which he has lived on this side the grave, are not obliterated on the other side, but are then really brought to light, and that there is an immaterial self-formation of the soul, in which all that a man has become under certain divinely appointed circumstances, by his own self-determination, is, as it were, reflected in a mirror, and that in a permanent form. This psychical image, to which the dead body bears the same relation as the shattered mould to a cast, is the shade-like corporeality of the inhabitants of Hades, in which they appear essentially though spiritually just as they were on this side the grave. This is the deep root of what the prophet has here expressed in a poetical form; for it is really a mâshâl that he has interwoven with his prophecy here. All Hades is overwhelmed with excitement and wonder, now that the king of Babel, that invincible ruler of the world, who, if not unexpected altogether, was not expected so soon, as actually approaching. From עורר onwards, Sheol, although a feminine, might be the subject; in which case the verb would simply have reverted from the feminine to the radical masculine form. But it is better to regard the subject as neuter; a nescio quid, a nameless power. The shades are suddenly seized with astonishment, more especially the former leaders (leading goats or bell-wethers) of the herds of nations, so that, from sheer amazement, they spring up from their seats.
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