Isaiah 29:17
Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
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(17) Is it not yet a very little while . . .?—The image of the potter does not suggest to Isaiah the thought of an arbitrary sovereignty, but of a love which will in the long run fulfil itself. He paints as not far off the restoration at once of the face of nature and of the life of man. Lebanon, that had been stripped of its cedars by the Assyrian invader (Isaiah 10:34), so as to be as the wilderness of Isaiah 22:15, should regain its glory, and once more be as Carmel, or “the fruitful field,” while the fields that had rejoiced in the rich growth of herbage and shrubs should attain the greatness of the forests of Lebanon as they had been. (See Isaiah 32:15, where “the wilderness” answers to the “Lebanon” of this verse.) The thought and the language would seem to have been among Isaiah’s favourite utterances.

Isaiah 29:17. Is it not a very little while, &c. — The following paragraph, to the end of the chapter, relates to the times of the gospel; the prophet foretelling therein, in figurative language, the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles. Lebanon, a barren mountain, a desolate wilderness, here stands for the Gentile world. This was to be turned into a fruitful field — Hebrew, לכרמל, into Carmel, or the vineyard of God, as the word signifies. On the other hand, the fruitful field, what had formerly been the vineyard of God, the Jewish Church, should be esteemed as a forest — See this interpretation confirmed, Isaiah 32:15; and Matthew 15:7-8.

29:17-24 The wonderful change here foretold, may refer to the affairs of Judah, though it looks further. When a great harvest of souls was gathered to Christ from among the Gentiles, then the wilderness was turned into a fruitful field; and the Jewish church, that had long been a fruitful field, became as a deserted forest. Those who, when in trouble, can truly rejoice in God, shall soon have cause greatly to rejoice in him. The grace of meekness contributes to the increase of our holy joy. The enemies who were powerful shall become mean and weak. To complete the repose of God's people, the scorners at home shall be cut off by judgements. All are apt to speak unadvisedly, and to mistake what they hear, but it is very unfair to make a man an offender for a word. They did all they could to bring those into trouble who told them of their faults. But He that redeemed Abraham out of his snares and troubles, will redeem those who are, by faith, his true seed, out of theirs. It will be the greatest comfort to godly parents to see their children renewed creatures, the work of God's grace. May those who now err in spirit, and murmur against the truth, come to understanding, and learn true doctrine. The Spirit of truth shall set right their mistakes, and lead them into all truth. This should encourage us to pray for those that have erred, and are deceived. All who murmured at the truths of God, as hard sayings, shall learn and be aware what God designed in all. See the change religion produces in the hearts of men, and the peace and pleasure of a humble and devout spirit.Is it not yet a very little while - The idea here is, 'you have greatly perverted things in Jerusalem. The time is at hand when there shall be "other" overturnings - when the wicked shall be cut off, and when there shall be poured out upon the nation such judgments that the deaf shall hear, and the blind see, and when those who have erred in spirit shall come to understanding' Isaiah 29:18-24.

And Lebanon shall be tutored into a fruitful field - This is evidently a proverbial expression, denoting any great revolution of things. It is probable that in the times of Isaiah the whole chain of Lebanon was uncultivated, as the word is evidently used here in opposition to a fruitful field (see the note at Isaiah 2:13). The word which is rendered 'fruitful field' (כרמל karmel) properly denotes "a fruitful field," or a finely cultivated country (see Isaiah 10:18). It is also applied to a celebrated mountain or promontory on the Mediterranean Sea, on the southern boundary of the tribe of Asher. It runs northwest of the plain of Esdraelon, and ends in a promontory or cape, and forms the bay of Acco. The mountain or promontory is about 1500 feet high; and abounds in caves or grottoes, and was celebrated as being the residence of the prophets Elijah and Elisha (see 1 Kings 18:19, 1 Kings 18:42; 2 Kings 2:25; 2 Kings 4:25; 2 Kings 19:23; compare the note at Isaiah 35:2). More than a thousand caves are said to exist on the west side of the mountain, which it is said were formerly inhabited by monks. But the word here is to be taken, doubtless, as it is in our translation, as denoting a well-cultivated country. Lebanon, that is now barren and uncultivated, shall soon become a fertile and productive field. That is, there shall be changes among the Jews that shall be as great as if Lebanon should become an extensively cultivated region, abounding in fruits, and vines, and harvests. The idea is this: 'The nation is now perverse, sinful, formal, and hypocritical. But the time of change shall come. The wicked shall be reformed; the number of the pious shall be increased; and the pure worship of God shall succeed this general formality and hypocrisy. The prophet does not say when this would be. He simply affirms that it would be before "a great while" - and it may, perhaps, be referred to the times succeeding the captivity (compare Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 1:6).

And the fruitful field be esteemed as a forest - That is, there shall be great changes in the nation, as if a well-cultivated field should be allowed to lie waste, and grow up into a forest. Perhaps it means that that which was then apparently flourishing would be overthrown, and the land lie waste. Those who were apparently in prosperity, would be humbled and punished. The effect of this revolution is stated in the following verses.

17. turned—as contrasted with your "turnings of things upside down" (Isa 29:16), there shall be other and better turnings or revolutions; the outpouring of the Spirit in the latter days (Isa 32:15); first on the Jews; which shall be followed by their national restoration (see on [739]Isa 29:2; [740]Zec 12:10) then on the Gentiles (Joe 2:28).

fruitful field—literally, "a Carmel" (see on [741]Isa 10:18). The moral change in the Jewish nation shall be as great as if the wooded Lebanon were to become a fruitful field, and vice versa. Compare Mt 11:12, Greek: "the kingdom of heaven forces itself," as it were, on man's acceptance; instead of men having to seek Messiah, as they had John, in a desert, He presents Himself before them with loving invitations; thus men's hearts, once a moral desert, are reclaimed so as to bear fruits of righteousness: vice versa, the ungodly who seemed prosperous, both in the moral and literal sense, shall be exhibited in their real barrenness.

The forest of Lebanon, which was a barren mountain and a desolate wilderness, shall by God’s wonderful providence become a fruitful and populous place; and these places, which are now fruitful and populous, shall then become as barren and desolate as that forest. The sense is confirmed by that parallel place, Isaiah 32:15. And from both places compared together, this seems to be a prophecy of the rejection of the wicked and unbelieving Jews, whose sins and marvellous judgments, and particularly infatuation, are declared in the foregoing verses; and of the calling of the Gentiles, of which he speaks in the following verse, as appears further by comparing that verse with Isaiah 35:5. And this opinion may receive some countenance from Matthew 15:7, &c., where Christ expounds the foregoing words, Isaiah 29:13, upon which these have a dependence, of his own times.

Is it not yet a very little while,.... In a short space of time, in a few years, what follows would come to pass; when there would be a strange change and alteration made in the world, and by which it would appear, that the Lord not only knows, but foreknows, all things:

and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field; the forest of Lebanon should be as Carmel. The meaning is, that the Gentile world, which was like a forest uncultivated, and full of unfruitful trees, to which wicked men may be compared, should through the preaching of the Gospel be manured, become God's husbandry, and be like a fruitful field, abounding with people and churches, fruitful in grace and good works:

and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? the people of the Jews, who once had the word and ordinances of God, and were a fruitful and flourishing people in religion; through their rejection of the Messiah, and contempt of his Gospel, should be deprived of all their privileges, and become like a forest or barren land: this was fulfilled, when the kingdom of God was taken from them, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of it, Matthew 21:43. See Isaiah 32:15.

Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be {p} turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?

(p) Will there not be a change of all things? Carmel is a plentiful place in respect to what it will be then and may be taken for a forest, as in Isa 32:15 and thus he speaks to comfort the faithful.

17. The expressions here were perhaps proverbial; they are almost exactly repeated in ch. Isaiah 32:15.

yet a very little while] as in ch. Isaiah 10:25 (cf. Isaiah 16:14).

Lebanon is here a synonym for forest (see on ch. Isaiah 10:34); it answers to “wilderness” (uncultivated pasture-land) in Isaiah 32:15.

a fruitful field] cf. Isaiah 10:18.

Verses 17-24. - A RENEWAL OF PROMISE. God's judgment (ver. 14), whatever it is, will pass. In a little while there will be a great change. The lowly will be exalted, the proud abased. From the "meek" and "poor' will be raised a body of true worshippers, who will possess spiritual discernment (ver. 18), while the oppressors and "scorners" will be brought to naught. When Isaiah expected this change is uncertain; but he holds out the hope of it here, as elsewhere so frequently (Isaiah 1:24-31; Isaiah 2:2-5; Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 5:13, etc.), to keep up the spirits of the people and prevent them from sinking into a state of depression and despair. Verse 17. - Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field. Lebanon, the wild forest, shall become smiling garden-ground, while garden-ground shall revert into wild uncultivated forest. An inversion of the moral condition of Judaea is shadowed forth by the metaphor. Isaiah 29:17But the prophet's God, whose omniscience, creative glory, and perfect wisdom they so basely mistook and ignored, would very shortly turn the present state of the world upside down, and make Himself a congregation out of the poor and wretched, whilst He would entirely destroy this proud ungodly nation. "Is it not yet a very little, and Lebanon is turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field esteemed as a forest? And in that day the deaf hear scripture words, and the eyes of the blind will see out of obscurity and out of darkness. And the joy of the humble increases in Jehovah, and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For tyrants are gone, and it is over with scoffers; and all who think evil are rooted out, who condemn a man for a word, and lay snares for him that is free-spoken in the gate, and overthrow the righteous through shameful lies." The circumstances themselves, as well as the sentence passed, will experience a change, in complete contrast with the present state of things. This is what is affirmed in Isaiah 29:17; probably a proverb transposed into a more literary style. What is now forest becomes ennobled into garden ground; and what is garden ground becomes in general estimation a forest (לכרמל, ליער, although we should rather expect ל, just as in Isaiah 32:15). These emblems are explained in Isaiah 29:18. The people that are now blind and deaf, so far as the word of Jehovah is concerned, are changed into a people with open ears and seeing eyes. Scripture words, like those which the prophet now holds before the people so unsuccessfully, are heard by those who have been deaf. The unfettered sight of those who have been blind pierces through the hitherto surrounding darkness. The heirs of the new future thus transformed are the anâvı̄m ("meek") and the 'ebhyōnı̄m ("poor"). אדם (the antithesis of אנשׁהים, e.g., Isaiah 29:13) heightens the representation of lowliness; the combination is a superlative one, as in הצאן צעירי, Jeremiah 49:20, and הצאן עניי in Zechariah 11:7 (cf., חיות פריץ in Isaiah 35:9): needy men who present a glaring contrast to, and stand out from, the general body of men. Such men will obtain ever increasing joy in Jehovah (yâsaph as in Isaiah 37:31). Such a people of God would take the place of the oppressors (cf., Isaiah 28:12) and scoffers (cf., Isaiah 28:14, Isaiah 28:22), and those who thought evil (shâqad, invigilare, sedulo agere), i.e., the wretched planners, who made a חטא of every one who did not enter into their plans (i.e., who called him a chōtē'; cf., Deuteronomy 24:4; Ecclesiastes 5:5), and went to law with the man who openly opposed them in the gate (Amos 5:10; yeqōshūn, possibly the perf. kal, cf., Jeremiah 50:24; according to the syntax, however, it is the fut. kal of qūsh equals yâqōsh: see at Isaiah 26:16; Ges. 44, Anm. 4), and thrust away the righteous, i.e., forced him away from his just rights (Isaiah 10:2), by tōhū, i.e., accusations and pretences of the utmost worthlessness; for these would all have been swept away. This is the true explanation of the last clause, as given in the Targum, and not "into the desert and desolation," as Knobel and Luzzatto suppose; for with Isaiah tōhū is the synonym for all such words as signify nothingness, groundlessness, and fraud. The prophet no doubt had in his mind, at the time that he uttered these words, the conduct of the people towards himself and his fellow-prophets, and such as were like-minded with them. The charge brought against him of being a conspirator, or a traitor to his country, was a tōhū of this kind. All these conspirators and persecutors Jehovah would clear entirely away.
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