Isaiah 24:1
Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty, and makes it waste, and turns it upside down, and scatters abroad the inhabitants thereof.
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(1) Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty . . .—The chapters from 24 to 27, inclusive, are to be taken as a continuous prophecy of the overthrow of the great world-powers which wore arrayed against Jehovah and His people. Of these Assyria was then the most prominent within the horizon of the prophet’s view; but Moab appears in Isaiah 25:10, and the language, with that exception, seems deliberately generalised, as if to paint the general discomfiture in every age (and, above all, in the great age of the future Deliverer) of the enemies of Jehovah and His people. The Hebrew word for “earth” admits (as elsewhere) of the rendering “land”; but here the wider meaning seems to predominate, as in its union with the “world,” in Isaiah 24:4.

Isaiah 24:1. Behold, &c. — According to Vitringa, the third book of Isaiah’s prophecies begins with this chapter, and extends to the thirty-sixth, being divided into three discourses; the first comprehending four chapters, the second six, and the third two. The general subject of the book is the penal judgments denounced by God upon the disobedient Jews, and the enemies of the church, with the most ample promises to the true church. This first discourse, contained in this and the three following chapters, Bishop Lowth thinks, was delivered before the destruction of Moab by Shalmaneser, (see Isaiah 25:10,) and consequently before the destruction of Samaria, and probably in the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign. The Lord maketh the earth empty — The word הארצ, here translated the earth, may, with equal propriety, be rendered the land, as indeed it is in Isaiah 24:3; Isaiah 24:13 of this chapter, and very frequently elsewhere. The land of Canaan seems to be here meant, including both Israel and Judah, which was made empty when the inhabitants of it were carried into captivity, which they were, first by the Assyrians, and then by the Chaldeans. And it was made still more empty and desolate in the last and great destruction of its cities and people, particularly of Jerusalem and its inhabitants by the Romans; of which see on Deuteronomy 28:62. To this destruction especially the prophet is thought to refer in many parts of this chapter.24:1-12 All whose treasures and happiness are laid up on earth, will soon be brought to want and misery. It is good to apply to ourselves what the Scripture says of the vanity and vexation of spirit which attend all things here below. Sin has turned the earth upside down; the earth is become quite different to man, from what it was when God first made it to be his habitation. It is, at the best, like a flower, which withers in the hands of those that please themselves with it, and lay it in their bosoms. The world we live in is a world of disappointment, a vale of tears; the children of men in it are but of few days, and full of trouble, See the power of God's curse, how it makes all empty, and lays waste all ranks and conditions. Sin brings these calamities upon the earth; it is polluted by the sins of men, therefore it is made desolate by God's judgments. Carnal joy will soon be at end, and the end of it is heaviness. God has many ways to imbitter wine and strong drink to those who love them; distemper of body, anguish of mind, and the ruin of the estate, will make strong drink bitter, and the delights of sense tasteless. Let men learn to mourn for sin, and rejoice in God; then no man, no event, can take their joy from them.Maketh the earth empty - That is, will depopulate it, or take away its inhabitants, and its wealth. The word 'earth' here (ארץ 'ārets) is used evidently not to denote the whole world, but the land to which the prophet particularly refers - the land of Judea. It should have been translated the land (see Joel 1:2). It is possible, however, that the word here may be intended to include so much of the nations that surrounded Palestine as were allied with it, or as were connected with it in the desolations under Nebuchadnezzar.

And turneth it upside down - Margin, 'Perverteth the face thereof.' That is, everything is thrown into confusion; the civil and religious institutions are disorganized, and derangement everywhere prevails.

And scattereth abroad ... - This was done in the invasion by the Chaldeans by the carrying away of the inhabitants into their long and painful captivity.


Isa 24:1-23. The Last Times of the World in General, and of Judah and the Church in Particular.

The four chapters (the twenty-fourth through the twenty-seventh) form one continuous poetical prophecy: descriptive of the dispersion and successive calamities of the Jews (Isa 24:1-12); the preaching of the Gospel by the first Hebrew converts throughout the world (Isa 24:13-16); the judgments on the adversaries of the Church and its final triumph (Isa 24:16-23); thanksgiving for the overthrow of the apostate faction (Isa 25:1-12), and establishment of the righteous in lasting peace (Isa 26:1-21); judgment on leviathan and entire purgation of the Church (Isa 27:1-13). Having treated of the several nations in particular—Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Edom, and Tyre (the miniature representative of all, as all kingdoms flocked into it)—he passes to the last times of the world at large and of Judah the representative and future head of the churches.

1. the earth—rather, "the land" of Judah (so in Isa 24:3, 5, 6; Joe 1:2). The desolation under Nebuchadnezzar prefigured that under Titus.Judgments on Judah for their defilements and transgressions, Isaiah 24:1-12. A remnant shall praise God, Isaiah 24:13-15. God, by his judgments on his people and their enemies, will advance his kingdom, Isaiah 24:16-23.

The earth; or, the land, to wit, of Canaan, or Israel, or Judea. It is usual with all writers, when they write of their own country, to call it the land, by way of eminency. There are many things in this prophecy which manifestly concern this land and people; and nothing, at least before Isaiah 24:21, which may be taken as a new and additional prophecy, which is necessary to be understood of other nations. But this I speak with submission, and due respect to those learned and judicious interpreters who take this to be a prophecy against Judea, and all the neighbouring nations.

Maketh it waste; he will shortly make it waste, first by the Assyrians, and then by the Chaldeans. Turneth it upside down; bringeth it into great disorder and confusion.

Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty,.... Some, by the "earth", only understand the land of Israel or Judea, and interpret the prophecy of the captivity of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser, as Kimchi, and other Jewish writers; and others, of the destruction of the Jews by Nebuchadnezzar; but some take in along with them the neighbouring nations who suffered by the same princes at the same time. Vitringa interprets the whole of the times of the Maccabees, as also the three following chapters Isaiah 25:1; though it is best to understand it of the Papal world, and all the antichristian states; and there are some things in it, at the close of it, which respect the destruction of the whole world. The Septuagint version uses the word by which Luke intends the whole Roman empire, Luke 2:1 and the Arabic version here renders it, "the whole world": the "emptying" of it is the removal of the inhabitants of it by wars and slaughters, which will be made when the seven vials of God's wrath will be poured upon all the antichristian states; see Revelation 16:1 and this being a most remarkable and wonderful event, is prefaced with the word "behold":

and maketh it waste; or desolate; the inhabitants and fruits of it being destroyed. R. Joseph Kimchi, from the use of the word in the Arabic language, renders it, "and opened it" (n); and explains it of the opening of the gates of a city to the enemy, so as that men may go out of it; to which the Targum inclines paraphrasing it,

"and shall deliver it to the enemy:''

and turneth it upside down; or, "perverteth the face of it" (o); so that it has not the form it had, and does not look like what it was, but is reduced to its original chaos, to be without form and void; cities being demolished, towns ruined, fields laid waste, and the inhabitants slain; particularly what a change of the face of things will there be in the destruction of the city of Rome! see Revelation 18:7. The Targum is,

"and shall cover with confusion the face of its princes, because they have transgressed the law:''

and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof; who will be obliged to fly from place to place from the sword of their victorious enemies. All is spoken in the present tense, though future, because of the certainty of it.

(n) So "aperuit totam portam", Golius, col. 321. (o) "et pervertet faciem ejus", Piscator.

Behold, the LORD maketh the {a} earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad its inhabitants.

(a) This prophecy is as a conclusion of that which has been threatened to the Jews and other nations from the 13th chapter and therefore by the earth he means those lands which were named before.

1. Behold, the Lord maketh … waste] The construction in Heb. is the fut. instans,—“is about to empty.” The metaphor of the verse (cf. Nahum 2:10) is exceedingly expressive, the words being “those which were used for cleaning a dirty dish” (G. A. Smith). Cf. 2 Kings 21:13. The language exhibits the fondness for assonance which is a marked peculiarity of the writer’s style, far in excess of anything of the kind in Isaiah.

the earth] Not “the land” (R.V. marg.) of Judah or Palestine. “The prophecy leaps far beyond all particular or national conditions.”

1–3 briefly announce the theme of the whole discourse, a final and universal judgment on the world.Verses 1-20. - GOD'S JUDGMENTS ON THE WORLD AT LARGE. From special denunciations of woe upon particular nations - Baby-loll, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Syria of Damascus, Egypt and Ethiopia, Arabia, Judea, Tyre - the prophet passes to denunciations of a broader character, involving the future of the whole world. This section of his work extends from the commencement of Isaiah 24. to the conclusion of Isaiah 27, thus including four chapters. The world at large is the general subject of the entire prophecy; but the "peculiar people" still maintains a marked and prominent place, as spiritually the leading country, and as one in whose fortunes the world at large would be always vitally concerned (see especially Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 25:6-8; Isaiah 26:1-4; Isaiah 27:6, 9, 13). Verse 1. - Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty. Several critics (Lowth, Ewald, Gesenius, Knobel) prefer to render, "maketh the land empty;" but the broader view, which is maintained by Rosenmüller, Kay, Cheyne, and others, seems preferable. The mention of "the world" in ver. 4, and of "the-kings of the earth" in ver. 21, implies a wider field of survey than the Holy Land. Of course the expression, "maketh empty," is rhetorical, some remarkable, but not complete, depopulation being pointed at (comp. ver. 6). Turneth it upside down (comp. Ezekiel 21:27). Scattereth abroad the inhabitants. The scanty population left is dispersed, and not allowed to collect into masses. The prophet now proceeds to describe the fate of Phoenicia. "Behold the Chaldean land: this people that has not been (Asshur - it hath prepared the same for desert beasts) - they set up their siege-towers, destroy the palaces of Kena'an, make it a heap of ruins. Mourn, he ships of Tarshish: for your fortress is laid waste." The general meaning of Isaiah 23:13, as the text now runs, is that the Chaldeans have destroyed Kenaēan, and in fact Tyre. הקימוּ (they set up) points to the plural idea of "this people," and בּחוּניו (chethib בּחיניו) to the singular idea of the same; on the other hand, the feminine suffixes relate to Tyre. "They (the Chaldeans) have laid bare the palaces ('armenoth, from 'armoneth) of Tyre," i.e., have thrown them down, or burned them down to their very foundations (עורר, from ערר equals ערה, Psalm 137:7, like ערער in Jeremiah 51:58); it (the Chaldean people) has made her (Tyre) a heap of rubbish. So far the text is clear, and there is no ground for hesitation. But the question arises, whether in the words לציּים יסדהּ אשּׁוּר Asshur is the subject or the object. In the former case the prophet points to the land of the Chaldeans, for the purpose of describing the instruments of divine wrath; and having called them "a nation which has not been" (היה לא), explains this by saying that Asshur first founded the land which the Chaldeans now inhabit for them, i.e., wild hordes (Psalm 72:9); or better still (as tziyyim can hardly signify mountain hordes), that Asshur has made it (this nation, עם fem., as in Jeremiah 8:5; Exodus 5:16) into dwellers in steppes (Knobel), which could not be conceived of in any other way than that Asshur settled the Chaldeans, who inhabited the northern mountains, in the present so-called land of Chaldea, and thus made the Chaldeans into a people, i.e., a settled, cultivated people, and a people bent on conquest and taking part in the history of the world (according to Knobel, primarily as a component part of the Assyrian army). But this view, which we meet with even in Calvin, is exposed to a grave difficulty. It is by no means improbable, indeed, that the Chaldeans, who were descendants of Nahor, according to Genesis 22:22, and therefore of Semitic descent,

(Note: Arpachshad (Genesis 10:22), probably the ancestor of the oldest Chaldeans, was also Semitic, whether his name is equivalent to Armachshad (the Chaldean high-land) or not. Arrapachitis rings like Albagh, the name of the table-land between the lake of Urmia and that of Van, according to which shad was the common Armenian termination for names of places.)

came down from the mountains which bound Armenia, Media, and Assyria, having been forced out by the primitive migration of the Arians from west to east; although the more modern hypothesis, which represents them as a people of Tatar descent, and as mixing among the Shemites of the countries of the Euphrates and Tigris, has no historical support whatever, the very reverse being the case, according to Genesis 10, since Babylon was of non-Semitic or Cushite origin, and therefore the land of Chaldea, as only a portion of Babylonia (Strabo, xvi. 1, 6), was the land of the Shemites. But the idea that the Assyrians brought them down from the mountains into the lowlands, though not under Ninus and Semiramis,

(Note: The same view is held by Oppert, though he regards the Casdim as the primitive Turanian (Tatar) inhabitants of Shinar, and supposes this passage to relate to their subjugation by the Semitic Assyrians.)

as Vitringa supposes, but about the time of Shalmanassar (Ges., Hitzig, Knobel, and others),

(Note: For an impartial examination of this migration or transplantation hypothesis, which is intimately connected with the Scythian hypothesis, see M. V. Niebuhr's Geschichte Assurs und Babels seit Phul (1857, pp. 152-154). Rawlinson (Monarchies, i.-71-74) decidedly rejects the latter as at variance with the testimonies of Scripture, of Berosus, and of the monuments.)

is pure imagination, and merely an inference drawn from this passage. For this reason I have tried to give a different interpretation to the clause לציּים יסדהּ אשּׁוּר in my Com. on Habakkuk (p. 22), viz., "Asshur - it has assigned the same to the beasts of the desert." That Asshur may be used not only pre-eminently, but directly, for Nineveh (like Kena‛an for Tzor), admits of no dispute, since even at the present day the ruins are called Arab. 'l-âṯūr, and this is probably a name applied to Nineveh in the arrow-headed writings also (Layard, Nineveh and its Remains).

The word tziyyim is commonly applied to beasts of the wilderness (e.g., Isaiah 13:21), and לציּים יסד for ציּה שׂם (used of Nineveh in Zephaniah 2:13-14) may be explained in accordance with Psalm 104:8. The form of the parenthetical clause, however, would be like that of the concluding clause of Amos 1:11. But what makes me distrustful even of this view is not a doctrinal ground (Winer, Real Wrterbuch, i. 218), but one taken from Isaiah's own prophecy. Isaiah undoubtedly sees a Chaldean empire behind the Assyrian; but this would be the only passage in which he prophesied (and that quite by the way) how the imperial power would pass from the latter to the former. It was the task of Nahum and Zephaniah to draw this connecting line. It is true that this argument is not sufficient to outweigh the objections that can be brought against the other view, which makes the text declare a fact that is never mentioned anywhere else; but it is important nevertheless. For this reason it is possible, indeed, that Ewald's conjecture is a right one, and that the original reading of the text was כּנענים ארץ הן. Read in this manner, the first clause runs thus: "Behold the land of the Canaaneans: this people has come to nothing; Asshur has prepared it (their land) for the beasts of the desert." It is true that היה לא generally means not to exist, or not to have been (Obadiah 1:16); but there are also cases in which לא is used as a kind of substantive (cf., Jeremiah 33:25), and the words mean to become or to have become nothing (Job 6:21; Ezekiel 21:32, and possibly also Isaiah 15:6). Such an alteration of the text is not favoured, indeed, by any of the ancient versions. For our own part, we still abide by the explanation we have given in the Commentary on Habakkuk, not so much for this reason, as because the seventy years mentioned afterwards are a decisive proof that the prophet had the Chaldeans and not Asshur in view, as the instruments employed in executing the judgment upon Tyre. The prophet points out the Chaldeans - that nation which (although of primeval antiquity, Jeremiah 5:15) had not yet shown itself as a conqueror of the world (cf., Habakkuk 1:6), having been hitherto subject to the Assyrians; but which had now gained the mastery after having first of all destroyed Asshur, i.e., Nineveh

(Note: This destruction of Nineveh was really such an one as could be called yesor l'ziyyim (a preparation for beasts of the desert), for it has been ever since a heap of ruins, which the earth gradually swallowed up; so that when Xenophon went past it, he was not even told that these were the ruins of the ancient Ninus. On the later buildings erected upon the ruins, see Marcus v. Niebuhr, p. 203.)

(namely, with the Medo-Babylonian army under Nabopolassar, the founder of the Neo-Babylonian empire, in 606 b.c.) - as the destroyers of the palaces of Tyre. With the appeal to the ships of Tarshish to pour out their lamentation, the prophecy returns in Isaiah 23:14 to the opening words in Isaiah 23:1. According to Isaiah 23:4, the fortress here is insular Tyre. As the prophecy thus closes itself by completing the circle, Isaiah 23:15-18 might appear to be a later addition. This is no more the case, however, here, than in the last part of chapter 19. Those critics, indeed, who do not acknowledge any special prophecies that are not vaticinia post eventum, are obliged to assign Isaiah 23:15-18 to the Persian era.

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