Isaiah 28:21
For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.
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(21) The Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim . . .—The point of the reference to David’s victories at Baal Perazim (2Samuel 5:20; 1Chronicles 14:11), and at Gibeon (1Chronicles 14:16) is that then Jehuah had interposed on behalf of His people against their enemies. The “new and strange” work—the very paradox of prophecy—was that He would now rise up to overthrow His own people.



Isaiah 28:21

How the great events of one generation fall dead to another! There is something very pathetic in the oblivion that swallows up world-resounding deeds. Here the prophet selects two instances which to him are solemn and singular examples of divine judgment, and we have difficulty in finding out to what he refers. To him they seemed the most luminous illustrations he could find of the principle which he is proclaiming, and to us all the light is burned out of them. They are the darkest portion of the verse. Several different events have been suggested. But most probably the historical references here are to David’s slaughter of the Philistines {2 Samuel 5:1 - 2 Samuel 5:25, and 1 Chronicles 14:1 - 1 Chronicles 14:17}. This is probable, but by no means certain. If so, the words are made still more threatening by asserting that He will treat the Israelites as if they were Philistines. But the point on which we should concentrate attention is this remarkable expression, according to which judgment is God’s strange work. And that is made more emphatic by the use of a word translated ‘act,’ which means service, and is almost always used for work that is hard and heavy-a toil or a task.

I. The work in which God delights.

It is here implied that the opposite kind of activity is congenial to Him. The text declares judgment to be an anomaly, out of His ordinary course of action and foreign to His nature.

We may pause for a moment on that great thought that God has a usual course of action, which is usual because it is the spontaneous expression and true mirror of His character. What He thus does shows that character to His creatures, who cannot see Him but in the glass of His works, and have to infer His nature, as they best may, from His works. The Bible begins with His nature and thence interprets His work.

The work in which God delights is the utterance of His love in blessing.

The very essence of love is self-manifestation.

The very being of God is love, and all being delights in its own self-manifestation, in its own activity.

How great the thought is that He is glad when we let Him satisfy His nature by making us glad!

The ordinary course of His government in the world is blessing.

II. The Task in which He does not delight, or His Strange Work.

The consequences of sin are God’s work. The miseries consequent on sin are self-inflicted, but they are also God’s judgments on sin. We may say that sin automatically works out its results, but its results follow by the will of God on account of sin.

That work is a necessity arising from the nature of God. It is foreign to His heart but not to His nature. God is both ‘the light of Israel’ for blessing, and ‘a consuming fire.’ The two opposite effects are equally the result of the contact of God and man. Light pains a diseased eye and gladdens a sound one. The sun seen through a mist becomes like a ball of red-hot iron. The whole revelation of God becomes a pain to an unloving soul.

But God’s very love compels Him to punish.

Some modern notions of the love of God seem to strike out righteousness from His nature altogether, and substitute for it a mere good nature which is weakness, not love, and is cruelty, not kindness.

There is nothing in the facts of the world or in the teachings of the gospel which countenances the notion of a God whose fondness prevents Him from scourging.

What do you call it when a father spares the rod and spoils the child?

Even this world is a very serious place for a man who sets himself against its laws. Its punishments come down surely and not always slowly. There is nothing in it to encourage the idea of impunity.

That work is to Him an Unwelcome Necessity. Bold words. ‘I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner.’ ‘He doth not willingly inflict.’ The awful power of sin to divert the current of blessing. Christ’s tears over Jerusalem. How unwelcome that work is to them is shown by the slowness of His judgments, by multiplied warnings. ‘Rising up early,’ He tells men that He will smite, in order that He may never need to smite.

That work is a certainty. However reluctantly He smites, the blow will fall.

III. The Strange Work of Redemption.

The mightiest miracle. The revelation of God’s deepest nature. The wonder of the universe.

28:16-22 Here is a promise of Christ, as the only foundation of hope for escaping the wrath to come. This foundation was laid in Zion, in the eternal counsels of God. This foundation is a stone, firm and able to support his church. It is a tried stone, a chosen stone, approved of God, and never failed any who made trial of it. A corner stone, binding together the whole building, and bearing the whole weight; precious in the sight of the Lord, and of every believer; a sure foundation on which to build. And he who in any age or nation shall believe this testimony, and rest all his hopes, and his never-dying soul on this foundation, shall never be confounded. The right effect of faith in Christ is, to quiet and calm the soul, till events shall be timed by Him, who has all times in his own hand and power. Whatever men trust to for justification, except the righteousness of Christ; or for wisdom, strength, and holiness, except the influences of the Holy Ghost; or for happiness, except the favour of God; that protection in which they thought to shelter themselves, will prove not enough to answer the intention. Those who rest in a righteousness of their own, will have deceived themselves: the bed is too short, the covering too narrow. God will be glorified in the fulfilling of his counsels. If those that profess to be members of God's church, make themselves like Philistines and Canaanites, they must expect to be dealt with as such. Then dare not to ridicule the reproofs of God's word, or the approaches of judgements.For the Lord shall rise up - To rise up is indicative of going forth to judgment, as when one rises from his seat to accomplish anything.

As in mount Perazim - There is reference here, doubtless, to the event recorded in 2 Samuel 5:20-21, and 1 Chronicles 14:11, where David is said to have defeated the Philistines at Baal-Perazim. This place was near to the valley of Rephaim 2 Samuel 5:19, and not far from Jerusalem. The word 'Perazim' is from פרץ pârats, to tear, or break forth, as waters do that have been confined; and is indicative of sudden judgment, and of a complete overthrow. It was on that account given to the place where David obtained a signal and complete victory 2 Samuel 5:20; and it is here referred to, to denote that God would come forth in a sudden manner to destroy Jerusalem and Judea. He would come upon them like bursting waters, and sweep them away to a distant land.

As in the valley of Gibeon - In 1 Chronicles 14:16, it is said that after the victory of Baal-Perazim, 'David smote the host of the Philistines from Gibeon even to Gaza.' This victory is doubtless referred to here, and not the victory of Joshua over the Gibeonites Joshua 10:10, as Vitringa and others suppose.

That he may do his work, his strange work - This is called his strange work because it would be inflicted on his people. He had destroyed their enemies often, but now he was about to engage in the unusual work of coming forth against his own people, and sweeping them away to a distant land. The work of judgment and punishment may be called the "strange" work of God always, inasmuch as it is not that in which he delights to engage, and is foreign to the benevolence of his heart. It is especially so when his own people are the objects of his displeasure, and when their sins are such as to demand that he should visit them with the tokens of his wrath.

21. Perazim—In the valley of Rephaim (2Sa 5:18, 20; 1Ch 14:11), there Jehovah, by David, broke forth as waters do, and made a breach among the Philistines, David's enemies, as Perazim means, expressing a sudden and complete overthrow.

Gibeon—(1Ch 14:16; 2Sa 5:25, Margin); not Joshua's victory (Jos 10:10).

strange—as being against His own people; judgment is not what God delights in; it is, though necessary, yet strange to Him (La 3:33).

work—punishing the guilty (Isa 10:12).

Shall rise up, to act and fight against you; as he is said to sit still, when he doth forbear to act.

Mount Perazim where he fought against the Philistines, 2 Samuel 5:20. The valley of Gibeon; where he fought against the Canaanites, Joshua 10:10, &c, and afterwards against the Philistines, 1 Chronicles 14:16.

His strange work; the execution of his judgment against Israel, which he calleth his strange work, to intimate either,

1. That God would punish them not with ordinary punishments, but in a most dreadful, and singular, and extraordinary manner; such a judgment being called

a marvellous work, Isaiah 29:14, although the Hebrew word there used be not the same with this, but of a much differing signification. Or rather,

2. That this work of bringing total and irrecoverable destruction upon Israel was contrary to the benignity of his own nature, and to the usual way of dealing with his people, whom he used and delighted to protect, and spare, and bless; and whom, even when he is angry with them, and punisheth them, he handleth more gently than he doth other persons, in judgment remembering mercy to them, as was noted, Isaiah 27:7,8: see also Isaiah 26:11.

For the Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim,.... Where the Lord broke forth on David's enemies the Philistines, as the breach of waters; see Isaiah 28:17 and destroyed them, from whence the place had the name of Baalperazim, 2 Samuel 5:20. The Targum is,

"for as the mountain which moved when the glory of the Lord was revealed in the days of Uzziah the king;''

referring to the earthquake in his time, Amos 1:1,

he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon; Josephus Ben Gorion (b) makes mention of the valley of Gibeon, where a battle was fought between Cestius the Roman general and the Jews, in which the latter got the victory, and says it was about six miles from Jerusalem: here the Philistines were smitten, returning again after they had been vanquished before, 1 Chronicles 14:16 though it is more generally thought that this refers to the discomfiture of the Canaanites in the times of Joshua, when also hailstones fell upon them, and destroyed many; see Isaiah 28:17 and when the sun and moon stood still till Israel were avenged on their enemies, and which showed the power and presence of God with them, Joshua 10:10 and so the Targum, which adds,

"and in the miracles which he (the Lord) did for Joshua, in the valley of Gibeon;''

and these instances are mentioned as proofs of the divine power and vengeance, and to assure the Jews that the Lord would rise up in the same wrath and indignation against them, and consume them:

that he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act; which may be called so, because in the above mentioned instances he fought for his people Israel, but in this he would fight against them; and because this was a work and act of strict justice and awful severity, and not so agreeable to him as acts of mercy, grace, and goodness, in which he delights; or rather, because it was an unusual one, marvellous and surprising, and would be so to the Jews themselves, and even to their enemies, and to all the world, as the destruction of Jerusalem was, especially as by the Romans; see Habakkuk 1:5. Vitringa, besides this, adds the calling of the Gentiles, the seizing of the inheritance of the world, and the destruction of the kingdom of Satan in the Roman empire. The Targum interprets this in a very contrary sense, of such as do strange works, idolatry, for which they are consumed.

(b) L. 6. c. 5. p. 559. Vid. Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 19. sect. 1.

For the LORD shall rise as on mount {a} Perazim, he shall be angry as in the valley {b} of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.

(a) When David overcame the Philistines, 2Sa 5:20, 1Ch 14:11.

(b) Where Joshua discomfited five kings of the Amorites, Jos 10:12.

21. The “strangeness” of Jehovah’s work (Isaiah 5:12, Isaiah 10:12) consists in his fighting with the foreigners against his own people. The historical allusions are to David’s victories over the Philistines in the vicinity of Jerusalem; see 2 Samuel 5:20 f.; 1 Chronicles 14:11 f. (Baal-Perazim); 2 Samuel 5:25 (Geba); 1 Chronicles 14:16 (Gibeon, as here). The last part reads: to perform his act—strange is his act! and to work his work—barbarous is his work!

Verse 21. - The Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim. The "Mount Perazim" of this passage is probably the same as the "Baal-Perazim" of 1 Chronicles 14:11, where David completely defeated the Philistines by the Divine help. This victory is connected with another over the same nation in the valley of Gibeon (1 Chronicles 14:13-16). Now, however, God was to be on the side of the enemies of his people, who were to suffer as the Philistines had suffered in the olden time. This punishment of Ida own people by the sword of foreigners was strange work on God's part - a strange act. But it was their strange conduct which caused God's strange action. They had become as it were, Philistines. Isaiah 28:21It would be with them as it was with the Philistines when David turned their army into water at Baal-perazim (2 Samuel 5:20; 1 Chronicles 14:11), or when on another occasion he drove them before him from Gibeon to Gezer (1 Chronicles 14:13.). "For Jehovah will rise up as in the mountain of Perazim, and be wroth as in the valley at Gibeon to work His work; astonishing is His work; and to act His act: strange is His act." The Targum wrongly supposes the first historical reminiscence to refer to the earthquake in the time of Uzziah, and the second to Joshua's victory over the Amorites. The allusion really is to the two shameful defeats which David inflicted upon the Philistines. There was a very good reason why victories over the Philistines especially should serve as similes. The same fate awaited the Philistines at the hands of the Assyrians, as predicted by the prophet in Isaiah 14:28. (cf., Isaiah 20:1-6). And the strangeness and verity of Jehovah's work were just this, that it would fare no better with the magnates of Judah at the hand of Asshur, than it had with the Philistines at the hand of David on both those occasions. The very same thing would now happen to the people of the house of David as formerly to its foes. Jehovah would have to act in opposition to His gracious purpose. He would have to act towards His own people as He once acted towards their foes. This was the most paradoxical thing of all that they would have to experience.
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