Isaiah 2:9
And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.
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(9) And the mean man boweth down.—The English gives adequately the significance of the two words for “man”—in Hebrew, adam and îsh. The Authorised Version applies the words to the prostrations of the worshippers of idols, whether of low or high degree; others refer them to the punishment of that idolatry: The mean man must be bowed down . . . the great man must be humbled.

Therefore forgive them not.—As a prayer the words find a parallel in Psalm 69:27; Psalm 109:14, but the rendering adopted by Cheyne and others, And thou canst not forgive them, is perhaps preferable. The sin is treated as “a sin unto death,” for which it is vain to pray (Isaiah 22:14).

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 the mean man - That is, the man in humble life, the poor, the low in rank - for this is all that the Hebrew word here - אדם 'âdâm - implies. The distinction between the two words here used - אדם 'âdâm as denoting a man of humble rank, and אישׁ 'ı̂ysh as denoting one of elevated rank - is one that constantly occurs in the Scriptures. Our word "mean" conveys an idea of moral baseness and degradation, which is not implied in the Hebrew.

Boweth down - That is, before idols. Some commentators, however, have understood this of bowing down in "affliction," but the other is probably the true interpretation.

And the great man - The men in elevated rank in life. The expressions together mean the same as "all ranks of people." It was a common or universal thing. No rank was exempt from the prevailing idolatry.

Therefore forgive them not - The Hebrew is "future" - להם ואל־תשׂא ve'al-tis'â' lâhem. Thou wilt not "bear" for them; that is, thou wilt not bear away their sins (by an atonement), or 'thou wilt not forgive them;' - but agreeable to a common Hebrew construction, it has the force of the imperative. It involves a "threatening" of the prophet, in the form of an address to God 'So great is their sin, that thou, Lord, wilt not pardon them.' The prophet then proceeds, in the following verses, to denounce the certainty and severity of the judgment that was coming upon them.

9. mean—in rank: not morally base: opposed to "the great man." The former is in Hebrew, Adam, the latter, ish.

boweth—namely, to idols. All ranks were idolaters.

forgive … not—a threat expressed by an imperative. Isaiah so identifies himself with God's will, that he prays for that which he knows God purposes. So Re 18:6.

The mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself; men of all ranks fall down and worship idols.

Forgive them not; cut off these incorrigible idolaters. Such an imprecation is not strange, considering the heinousness and inexcusableness of the crime, the singular condition of the prophets, who spake such things not from any disorderly passion, but by Divine inspiration, and from a fervent zeal for God’s glory, which ever was and ought to be dearer to them than all the interests of men, and from a pious care and fear lest others should be infected by their counsel or example. Yet the words may be taken as a prediction, Thou wilt not forgive them; by this I know thou hast determined utterly to destroy them; for the Hebrew particle al is sometimes taken only for a simple denial, as Psalm 121:3 Proverbs 12:28.

And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself,.... Both high and low, rich and poor, bow down unto, humble themselves before, and worship idols made by the hands of men: the words for the "mean man" and "the great man" are and "Adam" and "Ish"; and which are also interpreted by Jarchi of little or mean men, and of princes and mighty ones:

therefore forgive them not; their sins of soothsaying, covetousness, and idolatry; and such that worship the beast and his image shall not be forgiven, but drink of the wine of divine wrath, and be tormented with fire for ever and ever, Revelation 14:9. These are either the words of the prophet to the Lord representing the church, and imprecating evils on antichristian worshippers; or of the angel to the Christian powers, exhorting them not to spare Babylon, Revelation 18:6 some refer these words to the mean and great men bowing down and humbling themselves, and read them in connection with them thus, "and lifts not up unto them"; that is, the head or soul; so Aben Ezra, who also observes, that the word "earth" may be wanting, and supplied thus, "and the earth shall not bear them"; they shall be destroyed from off it, both the idols and the worshippers of them. See Psalm 10:16.

And the mean man boweth down, and the great man {q} humbleth himself: therefore {r} forgive them not.

(q) He notes the nature of the idolaters who are never satisfied in their superstitions.

(r) Thus the prophet spoke being inflamed with the zeal of God's glory, and that he might fear them with God's judgment.

9. boweth down … humbleth himself] If this be the right translation, the reference must be to the degradation of human dignity involved in idolatry and superstition, a thought not unworthy of Isaiah. It is more probable, however (see ch. Isaiah 5:15), that the words refer to the judgment at hand, which is as certain as if it had already taken place. So R.V. is bowed down … is brought low. The verbs may be understood either in a reflexive or a passive sense.

mean man … great man] In the original the contrast is expressed by two words for “man,” corresponding to homo and vir in Latin, Mensch and Mann in German, &c. Sometimes, as here, the distinction is emphasised so as to mark a contrast (Psalm 49:2).

therefore forgive them not] Or, and thou canst (or wilt) not forgive them. The verbal form employed in the Heb. (jussive) properly expresses the will or desire of the speaker (as E.V.), but in negative sentences it “sometimes expresses merely the subjective feeling and sympathy of the speaker with the act” (Davidson, Synt. § 128, R. 2).

Verse 9. - And the mean man boweth down, etc. So Ewald and Kay; but most other commentators render, "Therefore shall the mean man be bowed down, and the great man brought low, and thou shalt not [or, 'canst not'] forgive them" (Rosenmüller, Lowth, Gcsenius, Knobel, Cheyne). The transition from narrative to threatening comes best at the beginning of the verse. Isaiah 2:9It was a state ripe for judgment, from which, therefore, the prophet could at once proceed, without any further preparation, to the proclamation of judgment itself."Thus, then, men are bowed down, and lords are brought low; and forgive them - no, that Thou wilt not." The consecutive futures depict the judgment, as one which would follow by inward necessity from the worldly and ungodly glory of the existing state of things. The future is frequently used in this way (for example, in Isaiah 9:7.). It was a judgment by which small and great, i.e., the people in all its classes, were brought down from their false eminence. "Men" and "lords" (âdâm and ish, as in Isaiah 5:15; Psalm 49:3, and Proverbs 8:4, and like άνθρωπος and ανήρ in the Attic dialect), i.e., men who were lost in the crowd, and men who rose above it - all of them the judgment would throw down to the ground, and that without mercy (Revelation 6:15). The prophet expresses the conviction (al as in 2 Kings 6:27), that on this occasion God neither could nor would take away the sin by forgiving it. There was nothing left for them, therefore, but to carry out the command of the prophet in Isaiah 2:10 : "Creep into the rock, and bury thyself in the dust, before the terrible look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty." The glorious nation would hide itself most ignominiously, when the only true glory of Jehovah, which had been rejected by it, was manifested in judgment. They would conceal themselves in holes of the rocks, as if before a hostile army (Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6; 1 Samuel 14:11), and bury themselves with their faces in the sand, as if before the fatal simōm of the desert, that they might not have to bear this intolerable sight. And when Jehovah manifested Himself in this way in the fiery glance of judgment, the result summed up in Isaiah 2:11 must follow: "The people's eyes of haughtiness are humbled, and the pride of their lords is bowed down; and Jehovah, He only, stands exalted in that day." The result of the process of judgment is expressed in perfects: nisgab is the third pers. praet., not the participle: Jehovah "is exalted," i.e., shows Himself as exalted, whilst the haughty conduct of the people is brought down (shâphel is a verb, not an adjective; it is construed in the singular by attraction, and either refers to âdâm, man or people: Ges. 148, 1; or what is more probable, to the logical unity of the compound notion which is taken as subject, the constr. ad synesin s. sensum: Thiersch, 118), and the pride of the lords is bowed down (shach equals shâchach, Job 9:13). The first strophe of the proclamation of judgment appended to the prophetic saying in Isaiah 2:2-4 is here brought to a close. The second strophe reaches to Isaiah 2:17, where Isaiah 2:11 is repeated as a concluding verse.
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