Isaiah 24:20
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
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(20) The earth shall reel to and fro . . .—The point of the first comparison is obvious. (Comp. the like illustration of a ship tossed by the waves in Psalm 107:27.) The second becomes clearer if we render hammock instead of cottage, a hanging mat, suspended from a tree, in which the keeper of the vineyard slept, moving with every breath of wind; the very type of instability. In the words that follow the prophet traces the destruction to its source. The physical catastrophe is not the result of merely physical causes. The earth totters under the weight of its iniquity, and falls (we must remember the Hebrew idea of the world as resting upon pillars, 1Samuel 2:8), never to rise again. In its vision of the last things the picture finds a parallel, though under different imagery, in 2Peter 3:10-13.

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.The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard - This is descriptive of the agitation that occurs in an earthquake when everything is shaken from its foundation, and when trees and towers are shaken by the mighty concussion. The same figure is used in Isaiah 29:9. See also the description of a tempest at sea, in Psalm 107:27 :

They reel to and fro,

And stagger like a drunken man,

And are at their wit's end.

And shall be removed like a cottage - Or rather, shall move or vacillate (התנודדה hitenôdedâh) like a cottage. The word "cottage" (מלוּנה melûnâh from לין lı̂yn, "to pass the night, to lodge for a night") means properly a temporary shed or lodge for the watchman of a garden or vineyard (see the note at Isaiah 1:8). Sometimes these cottages were erected in the form of a hut; and sometimes they were a species of hanging bed or couch, that was suspended from the limbs of trees. They were made either by interweaving the limbs of a tree, or by suspending them by cords from the branches of trees, or by extending a cord or cords from one tree to another, and laying a couch or bed on the cords. They were thus made to afford a convenient place for observation, and also to afford security from the access of wild beasts. Travelers in the East even now resort to such a temporary lodge for security (see Niebuhr's Description of Arabia). These lodges were easily moved to and fro, and swung about by the wind - and this is the idea in the verse before us. The whole land was agitated as with an earthquake; it reeled like a drunkard; it moved, and was unsettled, as the hanging couch on the trees was driven to and fro by the wind.

And the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it - Like a vast incumbent weight on a dwelling which it cannot sustain, and beneath which it is crushed.

And it shall fall, and not rise again - This does not mean, as I apprehend, that the nation should never be restored to its former dignity and rank as a people, for the prophet immediately Isaiah 24:23 speaks of such a restoration, and of the re-establishment of the theocracy; but it must mean that in those convulsions it would not rise. It would not be able to recover itself; it would certainly be prostrated. As we say of a drunkard, he may stumble often, and partially recover himself, yet he will certainly fall so as not then to be able to recover himself, so it would be with that agitated and convulsed land. They would make many efforts to recover themselves, and they would partially succeed, yet they would ultimately be completely prostrate in the dust.

20. removed like a cottage—(See on [734]Isa 1:8). Here, a hanging couch, suspended from the trees by cords, such as Niebuhr describes the Arab keepers of lands as having, to enable them to keep watch, and at the same time to be secure from wild beasts. Translate, "Shall wave to and fro like a hammock" swung about by the wind.

heavy upon it—like an overwhelming burden.

not rise again—not meaning, that it never would rise (Isa 24:23), but in those convulsions it would not rise, it would surely fall.

The earth; the people of the earth.

Shall reel to and fro like a drunkard; shall be sorely perplexed and distressed, not knowing whither to go, nor what to do. Like a cottage; or like a lodge in a garden, of which this word is used, Isaiah 1:8, which is soon taken down, and set up ill another place, as occasion requires. Or, as others render it, like a tent, which is easily and commonly carried from place to place.

The transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; those sins which they formerly esteemed light and pleasant shall now be most burdensome and grievous to them, because of the dreadful punishments which shall follow them.

The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard,.... When it shall be moved and agitated to and fro, and dissolved; or this may be meant of the inhabitants, who shall be at their wits' end, and in the utmost confusion, not knowing what to do, nor where to go, having no more thought, nor sense, nor command of themselves, than a drunken man; and this is in just retaliation, that as they have been drunk with sin, having drank up iniquity like water, they shall now be drunk with punishment, which being heavy upon them, will make them stagger like a drunken man:

and shall be removed like a cottage; or, "a tent" (x); either of soldiers or shepherds, which are easily taken down and moved; or like "a lodge" (y), as the word is rendered Isaiah 1:8. The Septuagint render it a "fruit watch"; and, according to the Jewish writers, it signifies a booth or tent, in which the keepers of gardens or vineyards watched in the night; which Jarchi says was built on the top of a tree, and Kimchi on a hill; and, being made of light wood, was easily moved to and fro with the wind. The Targum is,

"and it goes and comes as a bed;''

that is, rocks as a cradle:

and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; that is, the punishment of transgression, which, like a talent of lead, in Zechariah 5:8 shall crush it, and the inhabitants of it, to pieces:

and it shall fall, and not rise again; in the form it now is; for there will be new heavens and a new earth, in which the righteous, who will share the first resurrection, will dwell; for as for the first earth, or present one, it shall pass away, and no place be found for it, Revelation 20:11.

(x) "quasi tabernaculum", V. L. (y) "Ut diversoriolum", Piscator.

The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
20. reel to and fro like a drunkard] Cf. Psalm 107:27.

shall be removed like a cottage] Better as in R.V. shall be moved to and fro like a hut. The word for “hut” is that used in ch. Isaiah 1:8 of the watchman’s frail shelter in the cucumber-field. It might here be fitly rendered “hammock.”

the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it] The material fabric of the earth is as it were crushed beneath the accumulated guilt of its inhabitants (cf. Isaiah 24:5, Isaiah 26:21).

it shall fall, and not rise again] Apparently a citation from Amos 5:2.

Verse 20. - The earth... shall be removed like a cottage; rather, sways to and fro like a hammock, Rosenmüller observes, "Alludit ad pensiles lectos, quos, metu ferrarum, in arboribus sibi parare solent, istis in terris, non custodes solum hortorum camporumve, sed et iter facientes." The transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; i.e. the earth perishes on account of men's sins. It shall fall, and not rise again. The present earth is to disappear altogether, and to be superseded by "a new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1). Isaiah 24:20This appeal is not made in vain. Isaiah 24:16. "From the border of the earth we hear songs: Praise to the Righteous One!" It no doubt seems natural enough to understand the term tzaddı̄k (righteous) as referring to Jehovah; but, as Hitzig observes, Jehovah is never called "the Righteous One" in so absolute a manner as this (compare, however, Psalm 112:4, where it occurs in connection with other attributes, and Exodus 9:27, where it stands in an antithetical relation); and in addition to this, Jehovah gives צבי (Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 28:5), whilst כבוד, and not צבי, is ascribed to Him. Hence we must take the word in the same sense as in Isaiah 3:10 (cf., Habakkuk 2:4). The reference is to the church of righteous men, whose faith has endured the fire of the judgment of wrath. In response to its summons to the praise of Jehovah, they answer it in songs from the border of the earth. The earth is here thought of as a garment spread out; cenaph is the point or edge of the garment, the extreme eastern and western ends (compare Isaiah 11:12). Thence the church of the future catches the sound of this grateful song as it is echoed from one to the other.

The prophet feels himself, "in spirit," to be a member of this church; but all at once he becomes aware of the sufferings which will have first of all to be overcome, and which he cannot look upon without sharing the suffering himself. "Then I said, Ruin to me! ruin to me! Woe to me! Robbers rob, and robbing, they rob as robbers. Horror, and pit, and snare, are over thee, O inhabitant of the earth! And it cometh to pass, whoever fleeth from the tidings of horror falleth into the pit; and whoever escapeth out of the pit is caught in the snare: for the trap-doors on high are opened, and the firm foundations of the earth shake. The earth rending, is rent asunder; the earth bursting, is burst in pieces; the earth shaking, tottereth. The earth reeling, reeleth like a drunken man, and swingeth like a hammock; and its burden of sin presseth upon it; and it falleth, and riseth not again." The expression "Then I said" (cf., Isaiah 6:5) stands here in the same apocalyptic connection as in Revelation 7:14, for example. He said it at that time in a state of ecstasy; so that when he committed to writing what he had seen, the saying was a thing of the past. The final salvation follows a final judgment; and looking back upon the latter, he bursts out into the exclamation of pain: râzı̄-lı̄, consumption, passing away, to me (see Isaiah 10:16; Isaiah 17:4), i.e., I must perish (râzi is a word of the same form as kâli, shâni, ‛âni; literally, it is a neuter adjective signifying emaciatum equals macies; Ewald, 749, g). He sees a dreadful, bloodthirsty people preying among both men and stores (compare Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 33:1, for the play upon the word with בגד, root גד, cf., κεύθειν τινά τι, tecte agere, i.e., from behind, treacherously, like assassins). The exclamation, "Horror, and pit," etc. (which Jeremiah applies in Jeremiah 48:43-44, to the destruction of Moab by the Chaldeans), is not an invocation, but simply a deeply agitated utterance of what is inevitable. In the pit and snare there is a comparison implied of men to game, and of the enemy to sportsmen (cf., Jeremiah 15:16; Lamentations 4:19; yillâcēr, as in Isaiah 8:15; Isaiah 28:13). The על in עליך is exactly the same as in Judges 16:9 (cf., Isaiah 16:9). They who should flee as soon as the horrible news arrived (min, as in Isaiah 33:3) would not escape destruction, but would become victims to one form if not to another (the same thought which we find expressed twice in Amos 5:19, and still more fully in Isaiah 9:1-4, as well as in a more dreadfully exalted tone). Observe, however, in how mysterious a background those human instruments of punishment remain, who are suggested by the word bōgdim (robbers). The idea that the judgment is a direct act of Jehovah, stands in the foreground and governs the whole. For this reason it is described as a repetition of the flood (for the opened windows or trap-doors of the firmament, which let the great bodies of water above them come down from on high upon the earth, point back to Genesis 7:11 and Genesis 8:2, cf., Psalm 78:23); and this indirectly implies its universality. It is also described as an earthquake. "The foundations of the earth" are the internal supports upon which the visible crust of the earth rests. The way in which the earth in its quaking first breaks, then bursts, and then falls, is painted for the ear by the three reflective forms in Isaiah 24:19, together with their gerundives, which keep each stage in the process of the catastrophe vividly before the mind. רעה is apparently an error of the pen for רע, if it is not indeed a n. actionis instead of the inf. absol. as in Habakkuk 3:9. The accentuation, however, regards the ah as a toneless addition, and the form therefore as a gerundive (like kob in Numbers 23:25). The reflective form התרעע is not the hithpalel of רוּע, vociferari, but the hithpoel of רעע (רצץ), frangere. The threefold play upon the words would be tame, if the words themselves formed an anti-climax; but it is really a climax ascendens. The earth first of all receives rents; then gaping wide, it bursts asunder; and finally sways to and fro once more, and falls. It is no longer possible for it to keep upright. Its wickedness presses it down like a burden (Isaiah 1:4; Psalm 38:5), so that it now reels for the last time like a drunken man (Isaiah 28:7; Isaiah 29:9), or a hammock (Isaiah 1:8), until it falls never to rise again.

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