Isaiah 2:22
Cease you from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of ?
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(22) Cease ye from man . . .—The verse is wanting in some MSS. of the LXX. version, and is rejected by some critics, as of the nature of a marginal comment, and as not in harmony with the context. The first fact is the most weighty argument against it, but is not decisive. The other objection does not count for much. To “cease from man” as well as from “idols” is surely the natural close of the great discourse which had begun with proclaiming that men of all classes and conditions should be brought low. The words “whose breath is in his nostrils” emphasise the frailty of human life (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22; Psalm 146:3-4). Looking to that frailty, the prophet asks, as the psalmist had asked, “What is man? (Psalm 8:1). What is he to be valued at?” If it could be proved that the verse was not Isaiah’s, it is at least the reflection of a devout mind in harmony with his.

Isaiah 2:22. Cease ye from man — “The prophet here subjoins an admonitory exhortation to the men of his own and of all times, to dissuade them from placing any confidence in man, however excellent in dignity, or great in power; as his life depends upon the air which he breathes through his nostrils, and which, if it be stopped, he is no more; and therefore, if you abstract from him the providence and grace of God, and consider him as left to himself, he is worthy of very little confidence and regard: see Psalm 146:3-4. Vitringa is of opinion, that the prophet here alludes immediately to the kings of Egypt: see Isaiah 31:3. And he adds, that the mystical interpretation of the period from the twelfth to this verse, may refer also to other days of the divine judgment, of which there are four peculiarly noted in Scripture, as referring to the new economy. 1st, The day of the subversion of the Jewish republic; 2d, The day of vengeance on the governors of the Roman empire, the persecutors of the church, in the time of Constantine; 3d, The future day of judgment hereafter to take place upon Antichrist and his crew; of which the prophets, and St. John in the Revelation particularly, have spoken; and, 4th, The day of general judgment. It is to this third day that he thinks the present period more immediately refers: see 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Revelation 16:14.” — Dodd. 2:10-22 The taking of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans seems first meant here, when idolatry among the Jews was done away; but our thoughts are led forward to the destruction of all the enemies of Christ. It is folly for those who are pursued by the wrath of God, to think to hide or shelter themselves from it. The shaking of the earth will be terrible to those who set their affections on things of the earth. Men's haughtiness will be brought down, either by the grace of God convincing them of the evil of pride, or by the providence of God depriving them of all the things they were proud of. The day of the Lord shall be upon those things in which they put their confidence. Those who will not be reasoned out of their sins, sooner or later shall be frightened out of them. Covetous men make money their god; but the time will come when they will feel it as much their burden. This whole passage may be applied to the case of an awakened sinner, ready to leave all that his soul may be saved. The Jews were prone to rely on their heathen neighbours; but they are here called upon to cease from depending on mortal man. We are all prone to the same sin. Then let not man be your fear, let not him be your hope; but let your hope be in the Lord your God. Let us make this our great concern.Cease ye from man - That is, cease to confide in or trust in him. The prophet had just said Isaiah 2:11, Isaiah 2:17 that the proud and lofty people would be brought low; that is, the kings, princes, and nobles would be humbled. They in whom the people had been accustomed to confide should show their insufficiency to afford protection. And he calls on the people to cease to put their reliance on any of the devices and refuges of men, implying that trust should be placed in the Lord only; see Psalm 146:3-4; Jeremiah 17:5.

Whose breath is in his nostrils - That is, who is weak and short-lived, and who has no control over his life. All his power exists only while he breathes, and his breath is in his nostrils. It may soon cease, and we should not confide in so frail and fragile a thing as the breath of man; see Psalm 146:3-5 :

Put not your trust in princes,

Nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth;

In that very day his thoughts perish.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,

Whose hope is in the Lord his God.

The Chaldee has translated this verse, 'Be not subject to man when he is terrible, whose breath is in his nostrils; because today he lives, and tomorrow he is not, and shall be reputed as nothing.' It is remarkable that this verse is omitted by the Septuagint, as Vitringa supposes, because it might seem to exhort people not to put confidence in their rulers.

For wherein ... - That is, he is unable to afford the assistance which is needed. When God shall come to judge people, what can man do, who is weak, and frail, and mortal? Refuge should be sought in God. The exhortation of the prophet here had respect to a particular time, but it may be applied in general to teach us not to confide in weak, frail, and dying man. For life and health, for food and raiment, for home and friends, and especially for salvation, we are dependent on God. He alone can save the sinner; and though we should treat people with all due respect, yet we should remember that God alone can save us from the great day of wrath.

22. The high ones (Isa 2:11, 13) on whom the people trust, shall be "brought low" (Isa 3:2); therefore "cease from" depending on them, instead of on the Lord (Ps 146:3-5). Seeing God will undoubtedly bring down the highest and proudest of the sons of men into so much contempt and misery, from henceforth never admire nor place your trust in man, whose breath, upon which his life and strength depends, is in his nostrils, and therefore is quickly stopped and taken away.

Wherein is he to be accounted of? what one real and valuable excellency is there in him, to wit, considered in himself, and without dependence upon God? Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils,.... "From that man" (y), meaning antichrist, the man of sin; who is but a mere man, a poor, frail, mortal man; though he sits in the temple of God, as if he was God, showing himself to be God, by taking that to himself which belongs to the Deity. This is advice to the followers of antichrist, to cease from going after him, and worshipping him, seeing he is not the living God, but a dying man:

for wherein is he to be accounted of? The Targum is,

"for he is alive today, and tomorrow he is not, and he is to be accounted as nothing;''

and much less as Peter's successor, as head of the church, and vicar of Christ, and as having all power in heaven, earth, and hell. It may be applied to men in general, in whom no confidence is to be placed, even the greatest of men, Psalm 118:8 and particularly the Egyptians, in whom the Jews were apt to trust, who were men, and not God; and whose horses were flesh, and not spirit, Isaiah 31:3 so Vitringa; but the first sense is best.

(y) .

Cease ye from man, whose {y} breath is in his nostrils: for why is he to be esteemed?

(y) Cast off your vain confidence in man, whose life is so frail that if his nose is stopped he is dead and consider that you are dealing with God.

22. whose breath … nostrils] A translation both weak and ungrammatical, although retained in R.V. Render: in whose nostrils is a breath. The breath of the nostrils symbolises the divinely imparted principle of life in man (Genesis 2:7); and the meaning of the clause is that man’s life is frail and perishable as a breath (cf. Job 7:7).

This verse is not found in the LXX., and is regarded by many as a later insertion in Isaiah’s prophecy.Verse 22. - Cease ye from man. This verse is regarded by many as a late marginal note, which has accidentally crept into the text (Diestel, Studer, Cheyne). It is omitted in the Septuagint, and interrupts the sequence of Isaiah 3. on Isaiah 2. somewhat awkwardly. If retained, it must be regarded as an appeal to Israel on the part of the prophet to give up their trust in man, whence had flowed all their other errors. Whose breath is in his nostrils; i.e. "whose life is a mere breath; who, if he ceases to breathe, ceases to live." For wherein is he to be accounted of? or, for of what account is he? Surely, of no account at all.

The glory of nature is followed by what is lofty and glorious in the world of men, such as magnificent fortifications, grand commercial buildings, and treasures which minister to the lust of the eye. "As upon every high tower, so upon every fortified wall. As upon all ships of Tarshish, so upon all works of curiosity." It was by erecting fortifications for offence and defence, both lofty and steep (bâzur, praeruptus, from bâzar, abrumpere, secernere), that Uzziah and Jotham especially endeavoured to serve Jerusalem and the land at large. The chronicler relates, with reference to Uzziah, in 2 Chronicles 26, that he built strong towers above "the corner-gate, the valley-gate, and the southern point of the cheesemakers' hollow," and fortified these places, which had probably been till that time the weakest points in Jerusalem; also that he built towers in the desert (probably in the desert between Beersheba and Gaza, to increase the safety of the land, and the numerous flocks which were pastured in the shephelah, i.e., the western portion of southern Palestine). With regard to Jotham, it is related in both the book of Kings (2 Kings 15:32.) and the Chronicles, that he built the upper gate of the temple; and in the Chronicles (2 Chronicles 27:1-9) that he fortified the 'Ofel, i.e., the southern spur of the temple hill, still more strongly, and built cities on the mountains of Judah, and erected castles and towers in the forests (to watch for hostile attacks and ward them off). Hezekiah also distinguished himself by building enterprises of this kind (2 Chronicles 32:27-30). But the allusion to the ships of Tarshish takes us to the times of Uzziah and Jotham, and not to those of Hezekiah (as Psalm 48:7 does to the time of Jehoshaphat); for the seaport town of Elath, which was recovered by Uzziah, was lost again to the kingdom of Judah during the reign of Ahaz. Jewish ships sailed from this Elath (Ailath) through the Red Sea and round the coast of Africa to the harbour of Tartessus, the ancient Phoenician emporium of the maritime region watered by the Baetis (Guadalquivir), which abounded in silver, and then returned through the Pillars of Hercules (the Straits of Gibraltar: vid., Duncker, Gesch. i.-312-315). It was to these Tartessus vessels that the expression "ships of Tarshish" primarily referred, though it was afterwards probably applied to mercantile ships in general. The following expression, "works of curiosity" (sechiyyoth hachemdah), is taken in far too restricted a sense by those who limit it, as the lxx have done, to the ships already spoken of, or understand it, as Gesenius does, as referring to beautiful flags. Jerome's rendering is correct: "et super omne quod visu pulcrum est" (and upon everything beautiful to look at); seciyyâh, from sâcâh, to look, is sight generally. The reference therefore is to all kinds of works of art, whether in sculpture or paintings (mascith is used of both), which delighted the observer by their imposing, tasteful appearance. Possibly, however, there is a more especial reference to curiosities of art and nature, which were brought by the trading vessels from foreign lands.
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