Isaiah 28:25
When he has made plain the face thereof, does he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rye in their place?
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(25) Doth he not cast abroad the fitches. . . .?—Modern English would give vetches. Each verb is carefully chosen to describe the special process that belonged to each kind of seed. We have, as it were, an excerpt from the “Georgicsof Palestine. Identification in such cases is not always easy; but I follow Mr. Carruthers (Bible Educator, i. 38) in reading “fennel seed” for the “fitches” of the English version. This, proverbially among the smallest of seeds, so as to be a type of the microscopic unseen, was scattered broadcast; “cummin,” also proverbial for its smallness, was sown by a like process, with some technical variation, indicated by the use of the Hebrew words. Wheat and barley were “dropped in” more deliberately by the hand of the sower, and then (instead of “the rie in their place”), “vetches for the borders thereof,” these being used in the East as a kind of herbaceous hedge round the field of corn. The point of the enumeration is that the wise tiller of the soil is discriminating in his methods, and deals with each seed according to its nature. So is it, the prophet suggests through the parable which he does not interpret, with the great Husbandman, whose field is the world, and for whom the nations are as seed. For “cast in the principal wheat . . .” read set the wheat in lines and the barley in the appointed place.

28:23-29 The husbandman applies to his calling with pains and prudence, in all the works of it according to their nature. Thus the Lord, who has given men this wisdom, is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in his working. As the occasion requires, he threatens, corrects, spares, shows mercy, or executes vengeance. Afflictions are God's threshing instruments, to loosen us from the world, to part between us and our chaff, and to prepare us for use. God will proportion them to our strength; they shall be no heavier than there is need. When his end is answered, the trials and sufferings of his people shall cease; his wheat shall be gathered into the garner, but the chaff shall be burned with unquenchable fire.When he hath made plain ... - That is, when he has leveled, or made smooth the surface of the ground by harrowing, or rolling it.

Doth he not scatter abroad - He does not sow one kind of grain merely, but different species according to the nature of the soil, or according to his wishes in regard to a crop.

The fitches - (קצח qetsach). Vulgate, Gith; a kind of cockle (Nigella Romana), an herb of sweet savor. Septuagint, Μικρόν μελάνθιον Mikron melanthion. The word 'fitch' denotes a small species of pea. The Hebrew word, however, which occurs nowhere else but here, probably denotes fennel, or dill, an herb whose seed the ancients mixed with their bread in order to give it a more agreeable relish.

And scatter the cummin - (כמן kammôn). Vulgate, Cyminum - 'Cummin.' Septuagint, Κύμινον Kuminon - also 'Cummin.' The word properly denotes an annual plant whose seeds have a bitterish warm taste with an aromatic flavor (Webster). The seeds of this plant were used as a condiment in sauces.

And cast in the principal wheat - Margin, 'The wheat in the principal place.' Vulgate, Per ordinem - 'In its proper order, place, proportion.' So Lowth, 'In due measure.' So Aben Ezra and Kimchi render it, 'By measure;' and they suppose it means that if too much wheat be sown on the land, it will grow too thick, and that the spires will crowd and suffocate each other. Our translators have rendered the word שׂורה s'ôrâh, 'principal,' as if it were derived from שׂרה s'ârâh, "to rule," and seem to have supposed that it denoted wheat that was especially excellent, or distinguished for its good qualities. Gesenius supposes that it means 'fat wheat,' from an Arabic signification of the word. Probably the word is designed to denote "quality," and to convey the idea that wheat is the principal, or chief grain that is sown; it is that which is most valued and esteemed.

And the appointed barley - The barley is a well-known grain. The word rendered 'appointed' (נסמן nisemân), occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. Castellio, Taylor, Grotius, Calvin, our translators, and others, suppose that it is derived from a Hebrew word which does not now occur - סמן sâman, "to designate, to mark, to seal;" and that it means barley that had been put aside and marked as especially excellent, or seed-barley. In Chaldee, the word סמן simman occurs in the sense of "to seal, to mark, to designate" (Chaldee Par. Numbers 17:3; 2 Kings 9:13; Esther 5:1). The Septuagint, translated it κέγχρον kengchron, and the Vulgate, Aquila, and Theodotion, understand the word as denoting a species of grain, the millet. The idea is probably that expressed by Grotius, and in our version - of barley that had been selected as seed-barley on account of its excellent quality.

And the rye - Margin, 'Spelt.' The word usually denotes "spelt" - a kind of wheat now found in Flanders and Italy, called German wheat. It may, however, denote rye.

In their place - literally, 'In the border.' Septuagint, Ἐν τοῖς ὁρίοις σου En tois horiois sou - 'In thy borders.' The idea seems to be that the spelt or rye was sown in the borders of the field while the wheat was sown in the middle; or that the rye was sown in its "proper bounds," or in the places which were adapted to it, and best suited to promote its growth.

25. face—the "surface" of the ground: "made plain," or level, by harrowing.

fitches—rather, "dill," or "fennel"; Nigella romana, with black seed, easily beaten out, used as a condiment and medicine in the East. So the Septuagint, "cummin" was used in the same way.

cast in … principal wheat—rather, plant the wheat in rows (for wheat was thought to yield the largest crop, by being planted sparingly [Pliny, Natural History, 18.21]); [Maurer]; "sow the wheat regularly" [Horsley]. But Gesenius, like English Version, "fat," or "principal," that is, excellent wheat.

appointed barley—rather, "barley in its appointed place" [Maurer].

in their place—rather, "in its (the field's) border" [Maurer].

Made plain the face thereof, by breaking the clods, which made it ragged and uneven.

The principal wheat; either,

1. The wheat, which is the principal or chief of all these grains; or,

2. The best wheat, which he prudently chooseth for seed.

The appointed barley; that proportion of barley which he appointed. Or, as others, the marked barley; or, the choice barley, which they laid aside in a sack for seed; and therefore set aside with a peculiar mark upon it. In their place, Heb. in his border; each seed in a several and proper place. When he hath made plain the face thereof,.... By harrowing it, after it is ploughed:

doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin; in sowing them in the ground, prepared for them; the former of these does not seem to be the same we so call, but something else. The Septuagint version calls it the little "melanthion" (c), the same with the "nigella" (d) of the Latins, and is sometimes called "gith" (e), as in the Vulgate Latin version here. The Syriac and Arabic versions render it "anise", which is mentioned along with "cummin", as common with the Jews, and which, in Christ's time, were tithed, Matthew 23:23 and both these in the text are by Kimchi said to be the food of man:

and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rye in their place? each in their proper place, or in soil suitable for them; some land being more suitable for the one than for the other, which the husbandman understands: "wheat" is the choicest and most excellent grain, and therefore called "principal"; or else because it is "first" sown, or sown in the best and "principal" ground: "barley" is said to be "appointed", or to be sowed in a place appointed for it; or "marked" (f), referring either to places marked in the field, where it should be sown; which sense the Targum and the Jewish commentators favour; or to sacks of it marked, in which the best seed for sowing was put: "and the rye in its border" (g); appointed for that Jarchi thinks this refers to the different places of sowing; the wheat was sown in the middle of the field; barley round about the mark or sign for that purpose; and rye upon the borders. The Targum is,

"as wheat is sown in an uncultivated field, and barley by the signs, and rye by the borders;''

but the whole is intended to express the wisdom of the husbandman, in sowing different seeds, not in the same field, which was forbidden by the law, Leviticus 19:19 but in ground suitable to each of them; and in the mystical sense designs the execution of divine judgments on men, in proportion to their sins, after they have been admonished of them, and reproved for them; and may be applied also to the sowing of the seed of the word in the hearts of men, and illustrated by the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:19.

(c) So Junius & Tremellius, and Piscator. (d) As here with Pagninus, Montanus. (e) So Vatablus and Castalio. (f) "hordeum signatum", Vatablus, Pagninus, Montanus; "signato loco", Tigurine version. (g) "speltam in termino ejus, vel suo", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

When he hath made {c} even the face of it, doth he not cast abroad the black cummin, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the wheat in rows and the appointed barley and the rye in their place?

(c) As the plowman has his appointed time, and various instruments for his labour, so has the Lord for his vengeance: for he punishes some at one time, and some at another, some after one sort, and some after another, so that his chosen seed is beaten and tried, but not broken as are the wicked.

25. fitches (R.V. marg. black cummin [Nigella sativa]) and cummin [Cuminum sativum] are both mentioned only in this passage. Note the different methods of sowing; scatter (of the fitches), sow (of the cummin), plant (of wheat and barley). The planting of wheat, &c. in rows is a mark of the most careful husbandry, still practised in Yemen and Egypt.

the principal wheat] Rather: the wheat in rows (R.V.).

the appointed barley] a very difficult expression. Perhaps “barley in the appointed place” (R.V.). Both this adjective and that for “principal” are wanting in the LXX. and are deleted as mistakes or glosses by Cheyne and others.

the rye in their place] the spelt (others, “vetches”) as its border (see R.V.). The allusion apparently is to a custom of surrounding certain crops with a protecting border of hardier plants.Verse 25. - When he hath made plain the face thereof; i.e. leveled it - brought the ground to a tolerably even surface. Doth he not cast abroad the fitches? The Hebrew word translated "fitches" - i.e. "vetches" - is qetsach, which is generally allowed to represent the Nigella sativa, a sort of ranun-cuhs, which is cultivated in many parts of the East for the sake of its seeds. These are black, and have an aromatic flavor. Dioscorides (3:83) and Pliny (19:8) say that they were sometimes mixed with bread. And scatter the cummin. "Cummin" (Cuminum sativum) is "an umbelliferous plant, something like fennel." The seeds - or rather, berries - have "a bitterish warm taste, with an aromatic flavor" ('Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 1. p. 372). They seem to have been eaten as a relish with various kinds of food. And cast in the principal wheat; rather, and put in wheat in rows. Drill-ploughs, which would deposit grain in rows, were known to the Assyrians ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 198). And the rie in their place. Cussemeth, the word translated "rie," is probably the Holeus sorghum, or "spelt," which is largely cultivated in Palestine and other parts of the East, and is the ordinary material of the bread eaten by the poorer classes (see the 'Pulpit Commentary' on Exodus, pp. 219, 220). For "in their place," Kay translates, "in its own border." The wheat and the barley and the spelt would all be sown separately, according to the direction of Leviticus 19:19, "Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed." And the whip which Jehovah swings will not be satisfied with one stroke, but will rain strokes. "And your covenant with death is struck out, and your agreement with Hades will not stand; the swelling scourge, when it comes, ye will become a thing trodden down to it. As often as it passes it takes you: for every morning it passes, by day and by night; and it is nothing but shuddering to hear such preaching. For the bed is too short to stretch in, and the covering too tight when a man wraps himself in it." Although berı̄th is feminine, the predicate to it is placed before it in the masculine form (Ges. 144). The covenant is thought of as a document; for khuppar (for obliterari (just as the kal is used in Genesis 6:14 in the sense of oblinere; or in Proverbs 30:20, the Targum, and the Syriac, in the sense of abstergere; and in the Talmud frequently in the sense of wiping off equals qinnēăch, or wiping out equals mâchaq - which meanings all go back, along with the meaning negare, to the primary meaning, tegere, obducere). The covenant will be "struck out," as you strike out a wrong word, by crossing it over with ink and rendering it illegible. They fancy that they have fortified themselves against death and Hades; but Jehovah gives to both of these unlimited power over them. When the swelling scourge shall come, they will become to it as mirmâs, i.e., they will be overwhelmed by it, and their corpses become like dirt of the streets (Isaiah 10:6; Isaiah 5:5); והייתם has the mercha upon the penult., according to the older editions and the smaller Masora on Leviticus 8:26, the tone being drawn back on account of the following לו. The strokes of the scourge come incessantly, and every stroke sweeps them, i.e., many of them, away. מדּי (from דּי, construct דּי, sufficiency, abundance) followed by the infinitive, quotiescunque irruet; lâqach, auferre, as in Jeremiah 15:15, and in the idiom lâqach nephesh. These scourgings without end - what a painful lecture Jehovah is reading them! This is the thought expressed in the concluding words: for the meaning cannot be, that "even (raq as in Psalm 32:6) the report (of such a fate) is alarming," as Grotius and others explain it; or the report is nothing but alarming, as Gussetius and others interpret it, since in that case שׁמועה שׁמע (cf., Isaiah 23:5) would have been quite sufficient, instead of שׁמוּעה הבין. There is no doubt that the expression points back to the scornful question addressed by the debauchees to the prophet in Isaiah 28:9, "To whom will he make preaching intelligible?" i.e., to whom will he preach the word of God in an intelligible manner? (as if they did not possess bı̄nâh without this; שׁמוּעה, ἀκοή, as in Isaiah 53:1). As Isaiah 28:11 affirmed that Jehovah would take up the word against them, the drunken stammerers, through a stammering people; so here the scourging without end is called the shemū‛âh, or sermon, which Jehovah preaches to them. At the same time, the word hâbhı̄n is not causative here, as in Isaiah 28:9, viz., "to give to understand," but signifies simply "to understand," or have an inward perception. To receive into one's comprehension such a sermon as that which was now being delivered to them, was raq-zevâ‛âh, nothing but shaking or shuddering (raq as in Genesis 6:5); זוּע (from which comes זועה, or by transposition זעוה) is applied to inward shaking as well as to outward tossing to and fro. Jerome renders it "tantummodo sola vexatio intellectum dabit auditui," and Luther follows him thus: "but the vexation teaches to take heed to the word," as if the reading were תּבין. The alarming character of the lecture is depicted in Isaiah 28:20, in a figure which was probably proverbial. The situation into which they are brought is like a bed too short for a man to stretch himself in (min as in 2 Kings 6:1), and like a covering which, according to the measure of the man who covers himself up in it (or perhaps still better in a temporal sense, "when a man covers or wraps himself up in it," cf., Isaiah 18:4), is too narrow or too tight. So would it be in their case with the Egyptian treaty, in which they fancied that there were rest and safety for them. They would have to acknowledge its insufficiency. They had made themselves a bed, and procured bed-clothes; but how mistaken they had been in the measure, how miserably and ridiculously they had miscalculated!
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