Isaiah 2:4
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
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(4) He shall judge among the nations.—For “rebuke” read decide or arbitrate. The ideal Divine King is to be all, and more than all, that Solomon had been (1Kings 10:24). In reliance on His wisdom and equity, nations would refer their disputes to His decision instead of the arbitrament of war. Here again we have a partial fulfilment, it may be hoped, a “springing and germinant accomplishment,” in the history of Christendom. So far as the teaching of Christ has influenced international polity and law, He has been the supreme arbitrator of their disputes.

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares.—The words invert the picture of an earlier prophet, who spoke of a time of war (Joel 3:10). Isaiah must have known that prediction, and yet he proclaims (following Hosea 2:18) that peace, not war, is the ideal goal towards which the order of the Divine government is tending. (Comp. Zechariah 9:10; Luke 2:14.)

Isaiah 2:4. He shall judge among the nations — He shall set up and exercise his authority, in and over all nations, not only giving laws to them, as other rulers do, but doing that which no others can do, convincing their consciences, changing their hearts, and ordering their lives; and shall rebuke many people — By the power of his word, compared to a two- edged sword in Scripture, and by the grace of his Spirit, convincing the world of sin: as also by the remarkable judgments which he will execute on those that are incorrigible, and especially on those of his implacable enemies who set themselves to oppose the propagation of his gospel. They shall beat their swords into plough-shares — This description of a well- established peace is very poetical. The Prophet Joel hath reversed it, and applied it to war prevailing over peace; beat your plough-shares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears, Joel 3:10. And so likewise the Roman poet: —

“Non ullus aratro Dignus honos, squalent abductis arva colonis,

Et curvæ rigidum falces conflantur in ensem.” Virg.
Georg. 1:506.

“The peaceful peasant to the wars is press’d;

The fields lie fallow in inglorious rest.

The plain no pasture to the flock affords,

The crooked scythes are straightened into swords.” Dryden.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation — Peace is frequently mentioned in Scripture as the distinguishing character of Christ’s kingdom, and he himself is called the prince of peace. The design and tendency of his gospel are to produce a peaceable disposition in mankind, by subduing their pride, and various passions and lusts, which are the causes of wars and contentions, and by working in them humility, meekness, self-denial, and true and fervent love to all men, from whence peace necessarily follows. And the gospel actually does produce this effect in those that rightly receive it. It disposes them, as much as in them lieth, to live peaceably with all men. And as to that dissension and war which the preaching of the gospel has sometimes occasioned, as it was foretold it would do, Matthew 10:21-22, it was wholly accidental, arising from men’s corrupt lusts and interests, which the gospel opposes; and it was not among those who received the truth in the love of it, but between them and those who were either open enemies, or false friends to them and to the gospel. But this passage foretels that even an external and general peace will be established in the world under the reign of the Messiah, which undoubtedly, in due time, will take place, namely, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in, and all Israel shall be saved, and both Jews and Gentiles shall be united together in one fold, under Christ their great Shepherd.

2:1-9 The calling of the Gentiles, the spread of the gospel, and that far more extensive preaching of it yet to come, are foretold. Let Christians strengthen one another, and support one another. It is God who teaches his people, by his word and Spirit. Christ promotes peace, as well as holiness. If all men were real Christians, there could be no war; but nothing answering to these expressions has yet taken place on the earth. Whatever others do, let us walk in the light of this peace. Let us remember that when true religion flourishes, men delight in going up to the house of the Lord, and in urging others to accompany them. Those are in danger who please themselves with strangers to God; for we soon learn to follow the ways of persons whose company we keep. It is not having silver and gold, horses and chariots, that displeases God, but depending upon them, as if we could not be safe, and easy, and happy without them, and could not but be so with them. Sin is a disgrace to the poorest and the lowest. And though lands called Christian are not full of idols, in the literal sense, are they not full of idolized riches? and are not men so busy about their gains and indulgences, that the Lord, his truths, and precepts, are forgotten or despised?And he shall judge - Or he shall exercise the office of a judge, or umpire. This "literally" refers to the God of Jacob Isaiah 2:3, though it is clear that the meaning is, that he will do it by the Messiah, or under his reign. One office of a judge is to decide controversies; to put an end to litigations, and thus to promote peace. The connection shows that this is the meaning here. Nations that are contending shall be brought to peace by the influence of the reign of the Messiah, and shall beat their swords into plowshares. In other words, the influence of the reign of the Messiah shall put a period to wars, and reduce contending nations to peace.

And shall rebuke - Shall "reprove" them for their contentions and strifes.

Lowth: 'Shall work conviction in many peoples.'

Noyes: 'He shall be a judge of the nations,

And an umpire of many kingdoms.'

He shall show them the evil of war; and by reproving them for those wicked passions which cause wars, shall promote universal peace. This the gospel everywhere does; and the tendency of it, if obeyed, would be to produce universal peace. In accordance with predictions like these, the Messiah is called the Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6; and it is said that of his peace there shall be no end; Isaiah 9:7.

And they shall beat ... - They shall change the arts of war to those of peace; or they shall abandon the pursuits of war for the mild and useful arts of husbandry; compare Psalm 46:9; Hosea 2:20. A similar prophecy is found in Zechariah 9:10. The following extracts may serve to illustrate this passage: 'The Syrian plow, which was probably used in all the regions around, is a very simple frame, and commonly so light, that a man of moderate strength might carry it in one hand. Volney states that in Syria it is often nothing else than the branch of a tree, cut below a bifurcation, and used without wheels. The plowshare is a piece of iron, broad but not large, which tips the end of the shaft. So much does it resemble the short sword used by the ancient warriors, that it may, with very little trouble, be converted into that deadly weapon; and when the work of destruction is over, reduced again to its former shape, and applied to the purposes of agriculture.'

Their spears - Spears were much used in war. They were made of wood, with a sharpened piece of iron or other metal attached to the end. The pruning-hook, made for cutting the limbs of vines or trees, is, in like manner, a long piece of wood with a crooked knife attached to it. Hence, it was easy to convert the one into the other.

Pruning-hooks - Hooks or long knives for trimming vines. The word here, however, means anything employed in "reaping or mowing," a sickle, or a scythe, or any instrument to "cut with," as well as a pruning-hook. These figures, as images of peace, are often used by the prophets. Micah M1 Corinthians 4:4 has added to this description of peace in Isaiah, the following:

But they shall sit

Every man under his vine,

And under his fig-tree;

And none shall make them afraid:

For the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it.


4. judge—as a sovereign umpire, settling all controversies (compare Isa 11:4). Lowth translates "work," "conviction."

plowshares—in the East resembling a short sword (Isa 9:6, 7; Zec 9:10).

He shall judge among the nations; Christ shall set up and use his authority among and over all nations, not only giving laws to them, as other rulers do, but doing that which no other powers can do, Convincing their minds and consciences, conquering and changing their hearts, and ordering their lives.

Shall rebuke; either verbally, by his word and Spirit reproving or convincing the world of sin; or really, by his judgments upon his implacable enemies, which obstruct the propagation of the gospel. Neither shall they learn war any more; he shall root out those great animosities and hostilities which were between the Jews and Gentiles, Ephesians 2:13, &c., and between several nations, subduing men’s pride, and passions, and lusts, which are the causes of all wars and contentions; and working humility, and meekness, and self-denial, and true and fervent love to all men, from whence peace necessarily follows. This was the design of the gospel in all, and the effect of it in those that rightly received it. And that war and dissension which was occasioned by the preaching of the gospel, as was foretold, Matthew 10:21,22, it was wholly accidental, by reason of men’s corrupt interests and lusts, which the gospel opposed; and it was not amongst those who received the gospel in the love of it, but between them and those who were either open enemies or false friends to them and to the gospel. But if this place be understood of an external and general peace which was to be in the world in the days of the Messias, this also may in due time be verified, when all Israel shall be saved, and the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in, and both Jews and Gentiles shall be united together into one fold, under Christ their great Shepherd; all which is prophesied and promised, John 10:16 Ro 11, and elsewhere. For it is not necessary that all the prophecies concerning the kingdom of the Messias should be accomplished in an instant, or at the beginning of it; but it is sufficient if they be fulfilled before the end of it. And some of them do manifestly belong to the last days of that kingdom. And therefore there is no truth nor weight in that argument which the Jews bring from this place against our Messias, because of those wars that have hitherto been and still are amongst Christians; for this doth not prove that these wars shall never cease, or that there shall not be such a peace in the world as they understand before the end of Christ’s kingdom.

And he shall judge among the nations,.... Or, "it shall judge"; either the mountain of the Lord's house, as Abarbinel thinks, that is, the church; for in the spiritual reign of Christ, in the latter day, the judgment shall be given to the saints of the most High, and they shall possess the kingdom; the power of civil government will be in their hands, and they shall judge the world; for kings will then be nursing fathers to them, and queens nursing mothers. Or the law and word of the Lord, the Gospel, which judges men now, and declares who are condemned, and who are not; and will judge them at the last day: or, "he shall judge", that is, the Messiah, as Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech interpret it; he shall be King over all the earth; the kingdoms of this world will become his, and his dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the end of the earth:

and shall rebuke many people; either the church shall rebuke by her ministers, whose work it is to reprove and rebuke for and to convince of both immorality and error; or, the word preached by them, which is the means of the conviction and conversion of sinners; or, Christ by his Spirit, whose office it is to reprove and convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is a prophecy of numerous conversions among the Gentiles, in the latter day:

and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: instruments of war shall be no more used, but shall be turned into instruments of husbandry, much more advantageous and useful to mankind.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. This clearly proves that this prophecy belongs to future times; for this has never yet had its accomplishment in any sense; not in a literal sense; for though there was an universal peace all the world over, at the birth of Christ, in the times of Augustus Caesar, yet there afterwards were, as our Lord foretold there would be, wars, and rumours of wars, and nation should rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and so it has been, more or less, ever since; nor in a spiritual sense, for though Christ has made peace by the blood of his cross, and came and preached it by his ministers, and wherever the Gospel of peace takes place, it makes men of peaceable dispositions, and reconciles them, as to God and Christ, and the way of salvation by him, so to one another; and it is peace saints are called to, and, when grace is in exercise, it rules in their hearts; and yet there have been sad contentions and quarrels among the people of God, and which yet still continue; but in the latter day glory, or spiritual reign of Christ, this prophecy will be fulfilled in every sense; for after the hour of temptation is over, that shall try all the earth, after the slaying of the witnesses and their rising, after the battle at Armageddon, when the beast and false prophet will be taken and cast alive into the lake of fire, there will be no more wars in the world, nor any persecution of the saints; and then will the peaceable kingdom of Christ appear, and all his subjects, and the members of his church, will live in the utmost unity and harmony together; they shall no more envy and vex one another; and of this peace there will be no end, Psalm 72:7 these words are applied to the times of the Messiah, both by ancient (q) and modern (r) Jews.

(q) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 63. 1.((r) R. Nachman. Disputat. cum fratre Paulo, p. 41. R. Isaac. Chizzuk Emuna, par. 1. cap. 1. p. 43, 44. Kimchi in Isaiah 65.19.

And {g} he shall judge among the nations, and shall {h} rebuke many people: and they shall {i} beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn {k} war any more.

(g) The Lord, who is Christ, will have all power given to him.

(h) That they may acknowledge their sins, and turn to him.

(i) He shows the fruit of the peace which the gospel should bring, that is, that men should do good to one another, while before they were enemies.

(k) He speaks not against the use of weapons and lawful war, but shows how the hearts of the godly will be affected one toward another, which peace and love begin and grow in this life, but will be perfected when we are joined with our head Jesus Christ.

4. Jehovah’s righteous judgment causes “wars to cease to the ends of the earth.”

among the nations] Here again Micah’s language is more indefinite: “many peoples”; “strong nations afar off.”

rebuke] arbitrate for; or, as R.V. marg., “give decision concerning.” Cf. Genesis 31:37; Job 9:33 (“umpire,” R.V. marg.). The meaning of course is that disputes which would otherwise have been settled by the sword are referred to the just and impartial arbitrament of Jehovah, whose award is accepted as final.

they shall beat … pruninghooks] For the figure cf. Martial’s “falx ex ense” (Ep. xiv. 34) and on the contrary Ovid (Fast. 1. 699), “sarcula cessabunt, versique in pila ligones”; also Joel 3:10. The word rendered “ploughshares” is found only in 1 Samuel 13:20 f. and in the parallels in Micah and Joel. Perhaps “mattock.”

The cessation of war is a prominent idea in Messianic prophecy. See esp. Hosea 2:18; Zechariah 9:10; and on Isaiah 9:5 below.

Ch. Isaiah 2:5-22. The False Glory of Israel to be annihilated by the Glory of Jehovah in a Day of Judgment

The passage may be divided into three brief sections:—

i. (Isaiah 2:5-9). After a transition verse (5, see below), the prophet proceeds, in an impassioned appeal to Jehovah, to contrast the actual condition of His people with the ideal set forth in Isaiah 2:2-4. The city destined to be the source of light and truth to all nations is at present a receptacle for the darkest and most degrading errors of heathenism. Having surveyed the symptoms of apostasy and ungodly pride which are everywhere around him—foreign superstitions (6), display of wealth (7), confidence in military resources (7), idolatry (8)—he gives utterance to the conviction borne in upon his mind, that the sin of the nation is unpardonable (9). Then follows,

ii. (Isaiah 2:10-17). A powerful description of the physical convulsions which mark the great “Day of Jehovah.” The conception seems to combine the features of the earthquake with those of the thunderstorm; it is a judgment directed against all that is “high and lofty” (12); i.e. everything, whether in nature (13 f.) or in human civilisation (15 f.), which seems to lift its head against the majesty of Jehovah (11, 17).

iii. In Isaiah 2:18-21 the prophet returns to the subject of idolatry, describing the sudden despair and ignominious discomfiture “in that day” of all who put their trust in images. The last verse then sums up in general terms the lesson of the preceding prophecy.

5 is apparently a transition verse (cf. Micah 4:5), “Since this great destiny is ours, O House of Jacob, let us at least for ourselves rise to the height of our privileges. But how vain is the exhortation! (6) For Thou, Jehovah, hast rejected, &c.” Or, the prophet may be supposed to cut short abruptly a line of thought he meant to pursue, and to make a fresh start at Isaiah 2:6. But neither of these views is convincing enough to remove the impression that Isaiah 2:2-4 are not the original introduction to 6 ff.

light of the Lord] Not the “light of His countenance” (as Psalm 89:15; Psalm 44:3), but of His Revelation (cf. Isaiah 51:4).

Verse 4. - He shall judge among the nations. This is clearly not yet fulfilled. How God shall ultimately "judge among the nations," or rather "between nation and nation," is a mystery which only the future can reveal. It has been supposed that "by his providential retributions he will decide those international questions out of which war ordinarily springs" (Kay). But it would seem to be at least as likely that he will bring the nations to such a pitch of wisdom and moderation, that they will voluntarily discard war, and agree to decide any disputes that arise by means of arbiters. The arbiter would then, like other judges, represent God, and "by him decree justice" (Proverbs 8:15). Shall rebuke. Rosenmüller translates, "Arbiter pacts sit;" Cheyne, "shall arbitrate." Here again, as in ver. 3, "people" should be "peoples." They shall beat, etc. On a sudden call to war, nations "beat their ploughshares into swords, and their pruning-hooks into spears" (Joel 3:10). They will do the reverse "in the latter days," when God shall have "made wars to cease" (Psalm 46:9) and "speak peace unto the nations" (Zechariah 9:10). Isaiah 2:4"And He will judge between the nations, and deliver justice to many peoples; and they forge their swords into coulters, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation lifts not up the sword against nation, neither do they exercise themselves in war any more." Since the nations betake themselves in this manner as pupils to the God of revelation and the word of His revelation, He becomes the supreme judge and umpire among them. If any dispute arise, it is no longer settled by the compulsory force of war, but by the word of God, to which all bow with willing submission. With such power as this in the peace-sustaining word of God (Zechariah 9:10), there is no more need for weapons of iron: they are turned into the instruments of peaceful employment, into ittim (probably a synonym for ethim in 1 Samuel 13:21), plough-knives or coulters, which cut the furrows for the ploughshare to turn up and mazmeroth, bills or pruning-hooks, with which vines are pruned to increase their fruit-bearing power. There is also no more need for military practice, for there is no use in exercising one's self in what cannot be applied. It is useless, and men dislike it. There is peace, not an armed peace, but a full, true, God-given and blessed peace. What even a Kant regarded as possible is now realized, and that not by the so-called Christian powers, but by the power of God, who favours the object for which an Elihu Burritt enthusiastically longs, rather than the politics of the Christian powers. It is in war that the power of the beast culminates in the history of the world. This beast will then be destroyed. The true humanity which sin has choked up will gain the mastery, and the world's history will keep Sabbath. And may we not indulge the hope, on the ground of such prophetic words as these, that the history of the world will not terminate without having kept a Sabbath? Shall we correct Isaiah, according to Quenstedt, lest we should become chiliasts? "The humanitarian ideas of Christendom," says a thoughtful Jewish scholar, "have their roots in the Pentateuch, and more especially in Deuteronomy. But in the prophets, particularly in Isaiah, they reach a height which will probably not be attained and fully realized by the modern world for centuries to come." Yet they will be realized. What the prophetic words appropriated by Isaiah here affirm, is a moral postulate, the goal of sacred history, the predicted counsel of God.
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