Isaiah 24:17
Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are on you, O inhabitant of the earth.
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(17) Fear, and the pit, and the snare . . .—The words paint the rapid succession of inevitable calamities, in imagery drawn from the several forms of the hunter’s work. There is first the terror of the startled beast; then the pit dug that he might fall into it; then the snare, if he struggled out of the pit, out of which there was no escape (Isaiah 8:15). The passage is noticeable as having been reproduced by Jeremiah in his prophecy against Moab (Jeremiah 48:43-44).

Isaiah 24:17-18. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, &c. — Great and various judgments, some actually inflicted, and others justly feared, as the punishment of the last-mentioned perfidiousness of the Jews toward God and their own Messiah. He that fleeth from the fear, &c. — Upon the report of some terrible evil coming toward him; shall fall into the pit — When he designs to avoid one danger, by so doing he shall plunge himself into another and greater mischief. For the windows from on high are opened, &c. — Both heaven and earth conspire against him. He alludes to the deluge of waters which God poured down from heaven, and to the earthquake which he often causes below. There is a remarkable elegance in the original of the 17th verse. The three Hebrew words, פחד, pachad, פחת, pachath, and פח, pach, being a paronomasia, or having an affinity in sound with each other, which cannot be translated into another language. And there is also great sublimity in the latter clause of the 18th verse, in which the ideas and expressions, taken from the deluge, are strongly expressive of that deluge of divine wrath which should fall upon, and totally overwhelm, the apostate Jews for rejecting and crucifying their own Messiah.24:16-23 Believers may be driven into the uttermost parts of the earth; but they are singing, not sighing. Here is terror to sinners; the prophet laments the miseries he saw breaking in like a torrent; and the small number of believers. He foresees that sin would abound. The meaning is plain, that evil pursues sinners. Unsteady, uncertain are all these things. Worldly men think to dwell in the earth as in a palace, as in a castle; but it shall be removed like a cottage, like a lodge put up for the night. It shall fall and not rise again; but there shall be new heavens and a new earth, in which shall dwell nothing but righteousness. Sin is a burden to the whole creation; it is a heavy burden, under which it groans now, and will sink at last. The high ones, that are puffed up with their grandeur, that think themselves out of the reach of danger, God will visit for their pride and cruelty. Let us judge nothing before the time, though some shall be visited. None in this world should be secure, though their condition be ever so prosperous; nor need any despair, though their condition be ever so deplorable. God will be glorified in all this. But the mystery of Providence is not yet finished. The ruin of the Redeemer's enemies must make way for his kingdom, and then the Sun of Righteousness will appear in full glory. Happy are those who take warning by the sentence against others; every impenitent sinner will sink under his transgression, and rise no more, while believers enjoy everlasting bliss.Fear, and the pit - This verse is an explanation of the cause of the wretchedness referred to in the previous verse. The same expression is found in Jeremiah 48:43, in his account of the destruction that would come upon Moab, a description which Jeremiah probably copied from Isaiah - There is also here in the original a "paronomasia" that cannot be retained in a translation - פחד ופחת ופח pachad vâpachath vâpach - where the form פח pach occurs in each word. The sense is, that they were nowhere safe; that if they escaped one danger, they immediately fell into another. The expression is equivalent to that which occurs in the writings of the Latin classics:

Incidit in Scyllam cupiens vitare Charybdin.

The same idea, that if a man should escape from one calamity he would fall into another, is expressed in another form in Amos 5:19 :

As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him;

Or went into a house, and leaned his hand on the wall,

And a serpent bit him.

In the passage before us, there is an advance from one danger to another, or the subsequent one is more to be dreaded than the preceding. The figure is taken from the mode of taking wild beasts, where various nets, toils, or pitfalls were employed to secure them. The word 'fear' (פחד pachad), denotes anything that was used to frighten or arouse the wild beasts in hunting, or to drive them into the pitfall that was prepared for them. Among the Romans the name 'fears' ("formidines") was given to lines or cords strung with feathers of all colors, which, when they fluttered in the air or were shaken, frightened the beasts into the pits, or the birds into the snares which were prepared to take them (Seneca, De Ira, ii. 122; virg. AE. xii. 7499; Geor. iii. 372). It is possible that this may be referred to here under the name of 'fear.' The word 'pit' (פחת pachat) denotes the pitfall; a hole dug in the ground, and covered over with bushes, leaves, etc., into which they might fall unawares. The word 'snare' (פח pach) denotes a net, or gin, and perhaps refers to a series of nets enclosing at first a large space of ground, in which the wild beasts were, and then drawn by degrees into a narrow compass, so that they could not escape.

17. This verse explains the wretchedness spoken of in Isa 24:16. Jeremiah (Jer 48:43, 44) uses the same words. They are proverbial; Isa 24:18 expressing that the inhabitants were nowhere safe; if they escaped one danger, they fell into another, and worse, on the opposite side (Am 5:19). "Fear" is the term applied to the cords with feathers of all colors which, when fluttered in the air, scare beasts into the pitfall, or birds into the snare. Horsley makes the connection. Indignant at the treatment which the Just One received, the prophet threatens the guilty land with instant vengeance. Great and various judgments, some actually inflicted, and others expected and justly feared, as the punishment of their last-mentioned treachery. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. This is to be understood not of the land of Judea only, and the inhabitants of it, but of all the earth; Kimchi interprets it of the nations of the world, particularly the Greeks and Turks; but the whole world, and the inhabitants of it, are meant, as the following verses show. There is an elegant play on words in the Hebrew, which cannot well be expressed in English, in the words "pachad, pachath, pach", fear, pit, and a snare; which are expressive of a variety of dangers, difficulties, and distresses; there seems to be an allusion to creatures that are hunted, who flee through fear, and fleeing fall into pits, or are entangled in snares, and so taken. Before the last day, or second coming of Christ to judge the world, there will be great perplexity in men's minds, great dread and fear upon their hearts, and much distress of nations; and the coming of the Son of Man will be as a snare upon the earth; see Luke 21:25. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.
17–20. This description of the judgment on the earth and its inhabitants seems to connect immediately with Isaiah 24:13.

17, 18a recur almost verbatim in Jeremiah 48:43 f. (cf. also Amos 5:19).

18b—20 describe the physical convulsions which accompany the day of Jehovah.

the windows from on high are opened] An allusion to the story of the Deluge (Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:2). The rest of the imagery is based on the phenomena of the earthquake.Verse 17. - Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee. Man will be like a hunted animal, flying from pursuit, and in danger at each step of falling into a pit or being caught in a snare (comp. Jeremiah 48:43, 44, where the idea is borrowed from this place, and applied to a particular nation). The world with its pleasure is judged; the world's city is also judged, in which both the world's power and the world's pleasure were concentrated. "The city of tohu is broken to pieces; every house is shut up, so that no man can come in. There is lamentation for wine in the fields; all rejoicing has set; the delight of the earth is banished. What is left of the city is wilderness, and the gate was shattered to ruins. For so will it be within the earth, in the midst of the nations; as at the olive-beating, as at the gleaning, when the vintage is over." The city of tohu (kiryath tōhu): this cannot be taken collectively, as Rosenmller, Arndt, and Drechsler suppose, on account of the annexation of kiryath to tohu, which is turned into a kind of proper name; for can we understand it as referring to Jerusalem, as the majority of commentators have done, including even Schegg and Stier (according to Isaiah 32:13-14), after we have taken "the earth" (hâ'âretz) in the sense of kosmos (the world). It is rather the central city of the world as estranged from God; and it is here designated according to its end, which end will be tohu, as its nature was tohu. Its true nature was the breaking up of the harmony of all divine order; and so its end will be the breaking up of its own standing, and a hurling back, as it were, into the chaos of its primeval beginning. With a very similar significance Rome is called turbida Roma in Persius (i. 5). The whole is thoroughly Isaiah's, even to the finest points: tohu is the same as in Isaiah 29:21; and for the expression מבּוא (so that you cannot enter; namely, on account of the ruins which block up the doorway) compare Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 7:8; Isaiah 17:1, also Isaiah 5:9; Isaiah 6:11; Isaiah 32:13. The cry or lamentation for the wine out in the fields (Isaiah 24:11; cf., Job 5:10) is the mourning on account of the destruction of the vineyards; the vine, which is one of Isaiah's most favourite symbols, represents in this instance also all the natural sources of joy. In the term ‛ârbâh (rejoicing) the relation between joy and light is presupposed; the sun of joy is set (compare Micah 3:6). What remains of the city בּעיר is partitive, just as בּו in Isaiah 10:22) is shammâh (desolation), to which the whole city has been brought (compare Isaiah 5:9; Isaiah 32:14). The strong gates, which once swarmed with men, are shattered to ruins (yuccath, like Micah 1:7, for yūcath, Ges. 67, Anm. 8; שׁאיּה, ἁπ λεγ, a predicating noun of sequence, as in Isaiah 37:26, "into desolated heaps;" compare Isaiah 6:11, etc., and other passages). In the whole circuit of the earth (Isaiah 6:12; Isaiah 7:22; hâ'âretz is "the earth" here as in Isaiah 10:23; Isaiah 19:24), and in the midst of what was once a crowd of nations (compare Micah 5:6-7), there is only a small remnant of men left. This is the leading thought, which runs through the book of Isaiah from beginning to end, and is figuratively depicted here in a miniature of Isaiah 17:4-6. The state of things produced by the catastrophe is compared to the olive-beating, which fetches down what fruit was left at the general picking, and to the gleaning of the grapes after the vintage has been fully gathered in (câlâh is used here as in Isaiah 10:25; Isaiah 16:4; Isaiah 21:16, etc., viz., "to be over," whereas in Isaiah 32:10 it means to be hopelessly lost, as in Isaiah 15:6). There are no more men in the whole of the wide world than there are of olives and grapes after the principal gathering has taken place. The persons saved belong chiefly, though not exclusively, to Israel (John 3:5). The place where they assemble is the land of promise.
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