Isaiah 27:11
When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off: the women come, and set them on fire: for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour.
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(11) When the boughs thereof are withered . . .—The picture of the wasted city receives another touch. Shrubs cover its open spaces (perhaps the prophet thinks of the gardens and parks within the walls of a city like Babylon), and women come, without fear of trespassing, to gather them for firewood.

For it is a people of no understanding.—The words are generic enough, and may be applied, like similar words in Isaiah 1:3; Jeremiah 8:7; Deuteronomy 32:28, to Israel as apostate, or to the world-power, which was the enemy of Israel. In this case, as we have seen, the context turns the scale in favour of the latter reference. So taken, the words are suggestive, as witnessing to the prophet’s belief that the God of Israel was also the Maker and the Former of the nations of the heathen world.

27:6-13 In the days of the gospel, the latter days, the gospel church shall be more firmly fixed than the Jewish church, and shall spread further. May our souls be continually watered and kept, that we may abound in the fruits of the Spirit, in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. The Jews yet are kept a separate and a numerous people; they have not been rooted out as those who slew them. The condition of that nation, through so many ages, forms a certain proof of the Divine origin of the Scriptures; and the Jews live amongst us, a continued warning against sin. But though winds are ever so rough, ever so high, God can say to them, Peace, be still. And though God will afflict his people, yet he will make their afflictions to work for the good of their souls. According to this promise, since the captivity in Babylon, no people have shown such hatred to idols and idolatry as the Jews. And to all God's people, the design of affliction is to part between them and sin. The affliction has done us good, when we keep at a distance from the occasions of sin, and use care that we may not be tempted to it. Jerusalem had been defended by grace and the Divine protection; but when God withdrew, she was left like a wilderness. This has awfully come to pass. And this is a figure of the deplorable state of the vineyard, the church, when it brought forth wild grapes. Sinners flatter themselves they shall not be dealt with severely, because God is merciful, and is their Maker. We see how weak those pleas will be. Verses 12,13, seem to predict the restoration of the Jews after the Babylonish captivity, and their recovery from their present dispersion. This is further applicable to the preaching of the gospel, by which sinners are gathered into the grace of God; the gospel proclaims the acceptable year of the Lord. Those gathered by the sounding of the gospel trumpet, are brought in to worship God, and added to the church; and the last trumpet will gather the saints together.When the boughs thereof are withered - This is a further description of the desolation which would come upon Babylon. The idea is, that Babylon would be forsaken until the trees should grow and decay, and the branches should fall to be collected for burning. That is, the desolation should be entire, undisturbed, and long continued The idea of the desolation is, therefore, in this verse carried forward, and a new circumstance is introduced to make it more graphic and striking. Lowth, however, supposes that this refers to the vineyard, and to the fact that the vine-twigs are collected in the East from the scarcity of fuel for burning. But it seems to me that the obvious reference is to Babylon, and that it is an image of the great and prolonged desolation that was coming upon that city.

They shall be broken off - That is, by their own weight as they decay, or by the hands of those who come to collect them for fuel.

The women come - Probably it was the office mainly of the women to collect the fuel which might be necessary for culinary purposes. In eastern climates but little is needed; and that is collected of the twigs of vineyards, of withered stubble, straw, hay, dried roots, etc., wherever they can be found.

And set them on fire - That is, to burn them for fuel.

Of no understanding - Of no right views of God and his government - wicked, sinful Proverbs 6:32; Proverbs 18:2; Jeremiah 5:21.

11. boughs … broken off—so the Jews are called (Ro 11:17, 19, 20).

set … on fire—burn them as fuel; "women" are specified, as probably it was their office to collect fuel and kindle the fire for cooking.

no understanding—as to the ways of God (De 32:28, 29; Jer 5:21; Ho 4:6).

When the boughs thereof are withered; when they shall begin to wither, as they will when they are thus gnawed and cropped by cattle.

They shall be broken off, that there may be no hopes nor possibility of their recovery.

The women; he mentions women, either because it is their usual work in the country to make fires, and to gather fuel for them, or to signify that the men should be generally destroyed.

It is a people of no understanding; they do not understand either me or themselves, either my word or works; they know not the things which concern their own peace and happiness, but, like brute beasts made to be destroyed, they blindly and wilfully go on in those courses which will bring them to certain ruin. He that made them; both as they are creatures, and as they are his people; for this also is expressed by making or forming, as Psalm 100:3 102:18 149:2. Thus he overthroweth their false and presumptuous conceits, that God would never destroy the work of his own hands, nor the seed of Abraham his friend for ever; and plainly declareth the contrary.

When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off,.... This city is compared to a tree, whose branches are not only gnawed and consumed by cattle, as in the former verse Isaiah 27:10; but which, in a hot dry summer, are withered and dried up, and so are easily broken, and are fit for nothing but the fire; hence it follows:

the women come and set them on fire; or "gather" them (f) in order to burn them; as is commonly done with withered branches, John 15:6 it may design the burning of the whore of Rome by the kings of the earth; for as antichrist is signified by a woman, so the ten kings that shall hate her, and burn her flesh with fire, may be signified by women; see Revelation 17:16. The word here used signifies to illuminate, or give light, which is done when wood is set on fire; hence the Vulgate Latin renders it, "women coming, and teaching it"; and so the Targum,

"women shall come into the house of their gods, and teach them;''

as the woman Jezebel does, Revelation 2:20 the former sense is best:

for it is a people of no understanding; or "understandings": that is, the people that inhabit the above city, they are sottish and stupid, have no understanding of God and divine things, of the Scriptures, and the doctrines of them; among whom this maxim obtains, that ignorance is the mother of devotion; they are under a judicial blindness, are given up to strong delusions to believe a lie, 2 Thessalonians 2:10,

therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them; and he that formed them will show them no favour; but his wrath shall be poured out upon them to the uttermost, which will be fulfilled in the seven vials, and in the destruction of Rome, and the everlasting ruin of the worshippers of the man of sin; see Revelation 16:1 no argument can be taken from men's being God's creatures and offspring, and from his being the former and maker of them, to their salvation; or because they are so, therefore shall be saved when they are sinful and sottish; for, being like brutes without understanding, they shall perish as they, without mercy.

(f) So Abendana in Miclol Yophi observes, this is the sense some give of the word, taking it to be the same as is used in Cant. v. 1.

When its boughs are withered, they shall be broken off: the {l} women come, and set them on fire: for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favour.

(l) God will not have need of mighty enemies: for the very women will do it to their great shame.

11. women come, and set them on fire] i.e. come thither to gather fuel.

a people of no understanding] (lit. “not a people of discernment”) because it does not perceive that deliverance is delayed solely by its continued impenitence (ch. Isaiah 44:18).

Verse 11. - When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off. By a sudden introduction of metaphor, the city becomes a tree, the prophet's thought going back, perhaps, to ver. 6. "Withered boughs" are indications of internal rottenness, and must be "broken off" to give the tree a chance of recovery. Samaria may be viewed as such a "bough," if the "tree" be taken as "the Israel of God" in the wider sense. Otherwise, we must suppose a threat against individual Judaeans. The women come. Weak women are strong enough to break off dead branches; they fall at a touch, and "their end is to be burned" (Hebrews 6:8). For it is a people of no understanding. It was folly, madness, to turn away from Jehovah, and go after other gods. Only through having "no understanding" could Israel have been so foolish (comp. Deuteronomy 32:28; 2 Kings 17:15; Jeremiah 4:22). He that made them... he that formed them (scrap. Isaiah 43. ], 7). God "hateth nothing that he has made" (Collect for Ash Wednesday). He made all men, but he "made" and "formed" Israel with exceptional care, and exceptional care leads on to exceptional love. Will not have mercy... will show them no favor; i.e. "will not spare." No contradiction of vers. 7, 8 is intended. God will have "measure" and "mercy" in his punishment of Israel, but will not so have mercy as not to punish severely. Isaiah 27:11The prophet said this from out of the midst of the state of punishment, and was therefore able still further to confirm the fact, that the punishment would cease with the sin, by the punishment which followed the sin. "For the strong city is solitary, a dwelling given up and forsaken like the steppe: there calves feed, and there they lie down, and eat off its branches. When its branches become withered, they are broken: women come, make fires with them; for it is not a people of intelligence: therefore its Creator has no pity upon it, and its Former does not pardon it." The nation without any intelligence (Isaiah 1:3), of which Jehovah was the Creator and Former (Isaiah 22:11), is Israel; and therefore the fortress that has been destroyed is the city of Jerusalem. The standpoint of the prophet must therefore be beyond the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the midst of the captivity. If this appears strange for Isaiah, nearly every separate word in these two vv. rises up as a witness that it is Isaiah, and no other, who is speaking here (compare, as more general proofs, Isaiah 32:13-14, and Isaiah 5:17; and as more specific exemplifications, Isaiah 16:2, Isaiah 16:9; Isaiah 11:7, etc.). The suffix in "her branches" refers to the city, whose ruins were overgrown with bushes. Synonymous with סעפּים, branches (always written with dagesh in distinction from סעפים, clefts, Isaiah 2:21), is kâtzir, cuttings, equivalent to shoots that can be easily cut off. It was a mistake on the part of the early translators to take kâtzir in the sense of "harvest" (Vulg., Symm., Saad., though not the lxx or Luther). As kâtzir is a collective term here, signifying the whole mass of branches, the predicate can be written in the plural, tisshâbarnâh, which is not to be explained as a singular form, as in Isaiah 28:3. אותהּ, in the neuter sense, points back to this: women light it האיר, as in Malachi 1:10), i.e., make with it a lighting flame (אור) and a warming fire (אוּר, Isaiah 54:16). So desolate does Jerusalem lie, that in the very spot which once swarmed with men a calf now quietly eats the green foliage of the bushes that grow between the ruins; and in the place whence hostile armies had formerly been compelled to withdraw without accomplishing their purpose, women now come and supply themselves with wood without the slightest opposition.
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