Isaiah 18:4
For so the LORD said to me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat on herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4, 5) I will take my rest . . .—The words that follow paint with marvellous vividness the calmness and deliberation of the workings of Divine judgments. God is at once unhasting and unresting. He dwells in His resting-place (i.e., palace or throne), and watches the ripening of the fruit which He is about to gather. While there is a clear heat in sunshine, while there is a dew-cloud in harvest-heat, through all phenomenal changes, He waits still. Then, before the harvest, when the blossom is over, and the fruit becomes the full-ripe grape, He comes as the Lord of the vineyard, and cuts off the branches with His pruning-hooks. (Comp. the striking parallels of Æsch. Suppl. 90-98, and Shakespeare, Henry VIII., 3:2.)

Isaiah 18:4. For so the Lord said unto me — That is, revealed this thing to me from his secret purposes; I will take my rest — While the Assyrian is forming designs for the destruction of my people, I will seem to rest, as if I had no regard for their preservation. The reader will observe, God is said in Scripture to rest, or sit still, when he does not work on the behalf of a person or people; as, on the contrary, he is said to bestir himself when he acts for them. And I will consider in my dwelling-place — Namely, in the heavens, what time will be most proper for the execution of my purpose upon these proud blasphemers of my name, and persecutors of my people. This is spoken after the manner of men. Like a clear heat upon herbs, &c. — The meaning of these metaphorical expressions is, that God would not so rest as to lay aside all care and regard for his people; but that he rested with the best and most benevolent purpose of comforting them after this affliction, and of giving them refreshment, like that of a serene heat after a heavy rain, or a cloud of dew in the time of harvest.18:1-7 God's care for his people; and the increase of the church. - This chapter is one of the most obscure in Scripture, though more of it probably was understood by those for whose use it was first intended, than by us now. Swift messengers are sent by water to a nation marked by Providence, and measured out, trodden under foot. God's people are trampled on; but whoever thinks to swallow them up, finds they are cast down, yet not deserted, not destroyed. All the dwellers on earth must watch the motions of the Divine Providence, and wait upon the directions of the Divine will. God gives assurance to his prophet, and by him to be given to his people. Zion is his rest for ever, and he will look after it. He will suit to their case the comforts and refreshments he provides for them; they will be acceptable, because seasonable. He will reckon with his and their enemies; and as God's people are protected at all seasons of the year, so their enemies are exposed at all seasons. A tribute of praise should be brought to God from all this. What is offered to God, must be offered in the way he has appointed; and we may expect him to meet us where he records his name. Thus shall the nations of the earth be convinced that Jehovah is the God, and Israel is his people, and shall unite in presenting spiritual sacrifices to his glory. Happy are those who take warning by his judgment on others, and hasten to join him and his people. Whatever land or people may be intended, we are here taught not to think that God takes no care of his church, and has no respect to the affairs of men, because he permits the wicked to triumph for a season. He has wise reasons for so doing, which we cannot now understand, but which will appear at the great day of his coming, when he will bring every work into judgment, and reward every man according to his works.For so the Lord said unto me - So Yahweh has revealed his purpose, that is, to execute punishment on the people who have been described in the previous verses. Their state as there described is that of a fierce people making ready for war, and probably designing an alliance with the enemies of Judea, and marshalling their armies for that purpose. Yahweh here reveals to the prophet that they shall be discomfited, and shows the manner in which it will be done. He says he will sit calm while these preparations are going on - as the sun shines serenely on the earth while the harvest is growing, and the dew falls gently on the herb; but that "before" their plans are completed, he will interpose and destroy them, as if one should appear suddenly before the harvest is ripe and cut it down. The "design," therefore, of this part of the prophecy is to comfort the Jews, and to assure them that there is no danger to them from the preparations which were made against them - for Yahweh calmly beholds the proud rage of the enemy.

I will take my rest - I will not interpose. I will remain calm - not appearing to oppose them, but keeping as calm, and as still, as if I seemed to favor their plans - as the sun shines on the herb, and the gentle dew falls on the grass, until the proper time for me to interpose and defeat them shall arise Isaiah 18:5-6.

I will consider - I will look on; that is, I will not now interpose and disarrange their plans before they are complete. We learn here,

(1) That God sees the plans of the wicked;

(2) That he sees them "mature" them without attempting then to interpose to disarrange them;

(3) That he is calm and still, because he designs that those plans shall be developed; and

(4) That the wicked should not indulge in any dreams of security and success because God does not interpose to thwart their plans while they are forming them. He will do it in the proper time.

In my dwelling-place - In heaven. I will sit in heaven and contemplate leisurely the plans that are going forward.

Like a clear heat - A serene, calm, and steady sunshine, by which plants and herbs are made to grow. There seem to be two ideas blended here: the first, that of the "stillness" with which the sun shines upon the herbs; and the other, that of the fact that the sun shines that the herbs "may grow."

Upon herbs - Margin, 'After rain' (עלי־אוי ‛ălēy 'ôry). The word אוי 'ôr usually signifies "light," or "fire." The plural form (ואורות ô'ôrôth) is used to denote herbs or vegetables in two places, in 2 Kings 4:39, and Isaiah 26:19. For in the Shemitic languages the ideas of "sprouting, being grown, growing" etc., are connected with that of the shining of the sun, or of light; that which grows in the light; that is, vegetables. But in the singular phorm the word is not thus used, unless it be in this place. That it may have this signiphication cannot be doubted; and this interpretation makes good sense, and suits the connection. The rabbis generally interpret it as it is in the margin - 'rain.' In proof of this they appeal to Job 36:30; Job 37:11; but the word in these passages more properly denotes a cloud of light or of lightning, than rain. The common interpretation is probably correct, which regards the word אור 'ôr here as the same as אורה 'ôrâh - 'herbs' (see Vitringa). The Syriac reads it על־יאר ‛al-yeor - 'upon the river.' The parallelism seems to require the sense of "herb," or something that shall answer to 'harvest' in the corresponding member.

And like a cloud of dew - Such a dew was still, and promoted the growth of vegetables. The idea is that of stillness and rest where there is no storm or tempest to dissipate the gently-falling dew. This is an emblem of the perfect quietness with which God would regard the preparations for war until the proper time would come for him to interpose. The whole passage is similar to Psalm 2:4-5 :

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh;

Jehovah shall have them in derision.

Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath,

continued...

4. take … rest … consider—I will calmly look on and not interpose, while all seems to promise success to the enemy; when figuratively, "the sun's heat" and "the night dews" ripen their "harvest"; but "before" it reaches its maturity I will destroy it (Isa 18:5; Ec 8:11, 12).

like a clear heat—rather, "at the time of the clear (serene) heat" [Maurer].

upon herbs—answering to "harvest" in the parallel clause. Maurer translates, "in the sunlight" (Job 31:26; 37:21; Hab 3:4).

like … dew—rather, "at the time of the dew cloud." God's "silence" is mistaken by the ungodly for consent; His delay in taking vengeance for forgetfulness (Ps 50:21); so it shall be before the vengeance which in the last day shall usher in the restoration of the Jews (Isa 34:1-8; 57:11, end of the verse, 2Pe 3:3-10).

I will take my rest, I will sit still, and not bestir myself, either to help this people, or to hinder their enemies. God is said in Scripture to rest or sit still, when he doth not work on the behalf of a person or people; as, on the contrary, he is said to bestir himself when he acts for them.

I will consider; or, I will contemplate or look upon them, to wit, the people of whom I am here speaking. So it is only an ellipsis of the pronoun. Now God’s looking in Scripture is variously used; sometimes in way of favour and mercy, as Psalm 25:18 Isaiah 66:2, &c.; and sometimes in a way of anger and judgment, as Exodus 14:24 Psalm 25:19, and, as I humbly conceive, in this place. I know some learned men render this and the next word, I will look upon my dwelling-place, and interpret the place of God’s gracious respect to his church or people, to preserve and deliver it in the midst of all the confusions and combustions that happen in the world; which interpretation seems altogether unsuitable to the scope and business of the chapter, which in all the foregoing and following verses speaks of another sort of people, even of the Egyptians or Ethiopians, of whom therefore this verse also must be understood, or otherwise we make a breach in the context.

In my dwelling place; in heaven, the place where God dwells, and where he is said to hear prayers, 1 Kings 8:30,32, as here to consider men and things as elsewhere he is said to hear and to look from heaven, as 2 Chronicles 6:21 Isaiah 63:15; the Hebrew particles beth, in, and mern, from, being put promiscuously one for another, as hath been noted before.

Like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest. The sense is, that God would look upon them, as the sun with a clear heat looks upon herbs, &c. But this may be understood either,

1. In way of mercy, as most take it. And so the sense is, that God would look out and shine forth upon his church and people, and be as comfortable and refreshing to them

as the clear heat which shines upon the herbs; or, as others render it, after the rain; or, as a cloud of dew is in the heat harvest. Or,

2. In way of judgment. And so the sense, that God would look upon them with as uncomfortable an influence as the sun with a clear heat upon the herbs, which are scorched and killed by it; and as a cloud of the dew, which brings dew or rain, in the heat of harvest, when it is unwelcome and hurtful. And this sense seems best to agree with the following verse, which continueth the metaphor of a harvest, and manifestly speaks not of refreshing, but of the destruction of the fruits thereof. For so the Lord said unto me,.... The prophet Isaiah, both what goes before, and follows after:

I will take my rest; these are not the words of the prophet, as some think, like those of Habakkuk, Habakkuk 2:1 but of the Lord himself, signifying that he would, as he always did, enjoy himself, amidst all the commotions that were in the world; or that he would take up his rest among his people in Zion, of which he had said, this is my rest for ever, Psalm 132:14 or rather that he would be still and quiet, and as one asleep and at rest, that took no notice of what was doing, nor interpose between parties preparing for war, and laying schemes for the ruin of each other; not help the one nor hinder the other, but let them go on a while with their designs:

and I will consider in my dwelling place: in heaven, what is to be done; for though the Lord may seem sometimes to take no notice of what is done on earth, yet he sees and knows all things, and considers in his own mind what is fit and proper that he should do, who works all things after the counsel of his own will: or, "I will look upon my dwelling place" (o); Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the temple, the sanctuary, where his Shechinah dwelt; here he promises to look in a way of grace and favour, with delight and pleasure, to comfort and refresh his own people; so the Targum paraphrases this and the preceding clause,

"I will make my people to rest, I will make them to rest, and I will delight in my holy habitation to do them good:''

like a clear heat upon herbs; or "after rain", as Aben Ezra and Kimchi, see 2 Samuel 23:4 when then the sun shines forth brightly after a shower of rain, which revives the plants and herbs, and makes them grow:

and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest; which is very desirable and welcome, which cools the air, refreshes the earth, plumps the corn, and is very grateful to the harvestman; and both metaphors may signify how grateful is the appearance of God to and for his people, his presence with them, the light of his countenance on them, and his protection of them; see Isaiah 4:5 and so the Targum,

"blessings and consolations will I bring to them quickly, as heat burning by means of the sun, and as a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest:''

though the whole may be understood in a very different sense, as it is by some, thus; that though the Lord for a while may seem to take no notice of what is doing below, yet he in heaven beholds what is done, and looks in a way of wrath and anger upon his enemies, as the sun looks with its scorching heat upon the herbs, and dries them up; and as a cloud which brings a large dew or rain with it, which is very hurtful in harvest time; and this sense seems most agreeable to the context.

(o) "sed intusor in locum meum", Janius & Tremellius.

For so the LORD said to me, I will take my {g} rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a {h} clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.

(g) I will stay a while from punishing the wicked.

(h) Which two seasons are profitable for the ripening of fruit, by which he means that he will seem to favour them and give them abundance for a time, but he will suddenly cut them off.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. I will take … consider] Better: I will quietly look on, the first verb being subordinate to the second.

like a clear heat upon herbs] Translate as R.V.: like clear heat in (or, along with) sunshine. The overpowering heat of the atmosphere in the height of summer seems something superadded to the effect of the sun’s rays.

like a cloud of dew] The Hebr. word for “dew” means really a fine drizzling mist: what is meant is possibly the stationary cirrus-cloud in the upper air, which is called a ‘mist-cloud,’ in distinction from the rain-cloud near the earth (so Duhm).

Both expressions are rightly construed as comparisons. The temporal construction suggested by R.V. marg. (“when there is, &c.”) is grammatically possible in the first case, but hardly in the second. The points of comparison are apparently two: (1) the motionless stillness of the noon-tide heat and the fleecy cloud are an emblem of Jehovah’s quiescence. (2) As these natural phenomena hasten the ripening of the fruit, so all providential agencies appear to further and mature the schemes of Assyria. But the development is suddenly arrested just before its fruition.

4–6. The purpose of Jehovah, as disclosed to Isaiah by special revelation. The opening words point back to a definite time when this illumination came to him,—whether in a moment of ecstasy or not it is impossible to say.Verse 4. - For so; rather, for thus. The word koh is prospective. I will take my rest, and I will consider; or, I will be still and look on. The rest of God is contrasted with the bustle and hurry of the Ethiopians and Assyrians. God "sits in his holy seat," calm and tranquil, knowing what the result is about to be, and when it will be; he waits while the influences of heat and moisture, sunshine and dew - his own agencies - ripen Assyria's schemes, impassive, taking no part. Then, suddenly, he takes the part described in the latter portion of ver. 5, "cuts off the shoots and hews down the branches." Like a clear heat upon herbs, etc.; rather, while there is clear heat in the sunshine, while there is a cloud of dew in the harvest-warmth; i.e. while surrounding influences are such as must favor the growth of Assyria's power and pride. Fourth turn: "Woe to the raoring of many nations: like the roaring of seas they roar; and to the rumbling of nations, like the rumbling of mighty waters they rumble! Nations, like the rumbling of many waters they rumble; and He threatens it: then it flies far away, and is chased like chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a cloud of dust before the gale. At eventide, behold consternation; and before the morning dawn it is destroyed: this the portion of our plunderers, and the lot of our robbers." It is the destruction of Asshur that the prophet is predicting here (as in Isaiah 14:24-27; Isaiah 29:5-8, etc.), though not of Asshur as Asshur, but of Asshur as the imperial kingdom, which embraced a multitude of nations (Isaiah 22:6; Isaiah 8:9, Isaiah 8:10; Isaiah 14:26; Isaiah 29:7, Isaiah 29:8) all gathered together under the rule of one will, to make a common attack upon the church of God. The connection between this fourth turn and the third is precisely the same as between Isaiah 8:9, Isaiah 8:10, and Isaiah 8:6-8. The exclamation of woe (hoi) is an expression of pain, as in Isaiah 10:1; and this is followed by a proclamation of the judgment of wrath. The description of the rolling wave of nations is as pictorial as the well-known illi inter sese, etc., of the Cyclops in Virgil. "It spreads and stretches out, as if it would never cease to roll, and roar, and surge, and sweep onward in its course" (Drechsler). In the expression "it" (bo) in Isaiah 17:13, the many surging nations are kneaded together, as it were, into one mass. It costs God simply a threatening word; and this mass all flies apart (mimmerchâk like mērâchōk, Isaiah 23:7), and falls into dust, and whirls about in all directions, like the chaff of threshing-floors in high situations, or like dust whirled up by the storm. The judgment commences in the evening, and rages through the night; and before the morning dawns, the army of nations raised by the imperial power is all destroyed (compare Isaiah 29:7, Isaiah 29:8, and the fulfilment in Isaiah 37:36). The fact that the oracle concerning Damascus in its fourth stage takes so comprehensive and, so far as Israel is concerned, so promising a form, may be explained on the ground that Syria was the forerunner of Asshur in the attack upon Israel, and that the alliance between Israel and Syria became the occasion of the complications with Asshur. If the substance of the massâ Dammesek (the oracle concerning Damascus) had been restricted to the prophecy contained in the name Mahershalal, the element of promise so characteristic of the prophecies against the nations of the world would be entirely wanting. But the shout of triumph, "This is the portion," etc., supplied a terminal point, beyond which the massa could not go without the sacrifice of its unity. We are therefore warranted in regarding Isaiah 18:1-7 as an independent prophecy, notwithstanding its commencement, which apparently forms a continuation of the fourth strophe of Isaiah 17:1-14.
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