Isaiah 30:6
The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.
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(6) The burden of the beasts of the south.—It has been conjectured that this, which reads like the heading of a new section, was first placed in the margin by a transcriber, as suggested by the mention of the lions, the vipers, the camels, and the asses, and then found its way into the text (Cheyne). There seems no reason, however, why the prophet should not have prefixed it as with the sarcasm of an indignant irony. “You ask for an oracle,” he seems to say, and you shall have one; but its very heading will imply condemnation and derision; “and then he continues his picture of the journey of the embassy. They pass through the Negeb, the south country, arid and waste, haunted only by lions, and vipers, and fiery (i.e., venomous) serpents, and they had their asses and camels with them, laden with the treasures with which they hoped to purchase the Egyptian alliance.

Isaiah 30:6-7. The burden of the beasts of the south — The burden of riches or treasures, carried upon beasts travelling southward. In these verses the prophet has before his eyes “the ambassadors of the Jews, or, as some think, also of Hosea, and the Ephraimites, (see 2 Kings 17:4,) bearing their splendid and sumptuous presents on asses and camels into Egypt; and perceiving that they would reap no advantage from this proud and sumptuous embassy, and that the whole would be fruitless, or rather would raise the indignation of the Assyrians, he cannot refrain, but exhibits, to the life, the whole scheme of this imprudence, folly, and incredulity, as it was immediately presented to his prophetic sight, with its shameful and sorrowful event.” Into the land of trouble and anguish — Into Egypt and Ethiopia, for both were joined together in this matter, (see chap. 20.,) whose land seems to be called a land of trouble, &c., prophetically, because they should distress and not help those that applied to and trusted in them, as was said of the Assyrians in the like case, 2 Chronicles 28:20. Bishop Lowth, who supposes that the deserts are here meant, which the Israelites passed through when they came out of Egypt, renders it, by, or through a land of distress, &c. But it seems more likely, as it certainly was more important, that the land to which, than that through which, they went, should be spoken of. Besides, the direct road from Judea to Egypt was not through such a country as is here described. From whence come the young and old lion, &c. — This may be understood literally, for “Egypt, at this time, joined to Ethiopia, was, of all countries, most fertile of every fierce and wild creature, which the nature of man abhors, both terrestrial and aquatic.” See Boch. Hieroz., p. 2:1. 3. c. 13. The words, however, may have a higher and mystical meaning, and by these wild and savage creatures may be designed the craft and cruelty of the Egyptians and Ethiopians, and the danger and injury the Jews, or Israelites, would bring upon themselves by a confederacy with them. Therefore have I cried concerning this — This counsel, or practice; their strength is to sit still — It is safer and better for them to stay quietly at home, seeking to God for help, than to go or send to Egypt for it.

30:1-7 It was often the fault and folly of the Jews, that when troubled by their neighbours on one side, they sought for succour from others, instead of looking up to God. Nor can we avoid the dreadful consequences of adding sin to sin, but by making the righteousness of Christ our refuge, and seeking for the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Men have always been prone to lean to their own understandings, but this will end in their shame and misery. They would not trust in God. They took much pains to gain the Egyptians. The riches so spent turned to a bad account. See what dangers men run into who forsake God to follow their carnal confidences. The Creator is the Rock of ages, the creature a broken reed; we cannot expect too little from man, or too much from God. Our strength is to sit still, in humble dependence upon God and his goodness, and quiet submission to his will.The burden of the beasts of the south - The word 'south' here refers doubtless to the country to the south of Judea; and particularly to Egypt. Thus it is used in Daniel 11:5-6. The phrase 'beasts of the south,' here refers to the animals that were traveling to Egypt. Isaiah, in vision, sees the caravan heavily laden with treasures pursuing a southern direction on its way to Egypt. The word 'burden' is used in two senses, to denote that which is borne, a heavy burden; or an oracle, a solemn prophetic message (see the notes at Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1). Many understand the word here in the latter sense, and regard this as the title of a prophetic message similar to those in Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1. But the word is doubtless used here in its ordinary signification, to denote the load which is borne on animals, and here especially the treasures which were borne down to Egypt, for the purpose of securing their friendly alliance. The prophet sees the caravan, or the beasts of the ambassadors heavily laden with rich treasures, traveling southward toward Egypt, and cries out, 'O the heavy burden, the load of treasures going to the south!'

Into the land of trouble and anguish - Egypt; so called either because it was the land where the Hebrews had formerly suffered so severe oppressions; or because it was a land where the subjects were now grievously oppressed, and borne down with cruel laws; or because it was yet to be a land of trouble, from which the Jews could expect no aid. The general idea is, that Egypt was not a land of liberty and happiness, but a country where cruelty, oppression, and woe abounded. One source of trouble, as emblematic of all, the prophet immediately mentions when he designates that it abounded with venomous reptiles.

The viper - (אפעה 'eph‛eh). Septuagint, Ἀσπίδες Aspides 'asps' (see Isaiah 59:5). This is a well-known species of serpent. It is probably the same as the El-Effah of the Arabs which is thus described by Mr. Jackson: 'It is remarkable for its quick and penetrating poison; it is about two feet long and as thick as a man's arm, beautifully spotted with yellow and brown, and sprinkled over with blackish specks, similar to the horn-nosed snake. They have a wide mouth, by which they inhale a great quantity of air, and when inflated therewith they eject it with such force as to be heard at a considerable distance.' It is well known that Egypt produced venomous reptiles in abundance. Cleopatra destroyed herself with the bite of an asp which she had concealed for that purpose.

And fiery flying serpent - (מעופף שׂרף s'ârâph me‛ôpēp). Septuagint, Ἔκγονα ἀσπίδων περομένων Ekgona aspidōn petomenōn. This is the flying serpent so often referred to in the Scriptures. See a description of it in the notes at Isaiah 14:29. It is known to have abounded in the Arabian deserts, and was doubtless found also in Egypt as being in the same latitude, and infested with similar reptiles. Niebuhr thus describes a species of serpent which answers to this account. 'There is at Bakra a sort of serpents which they call Heie Sursurie, or Heie Thiare. They commonly keep upon the date trees; and as it would be laborious for them to come down from a very high tree in order to ascend another, they twist themselves by the tail to a branch of the former, which, making a spring, by the motion they give it, throw themselves to the second. Hence, it is that the modern Arabs call them the flying serpents - Heie Thiare. Lord Anson, as quoted by Niebuhr, also speaks of them as follows: 'The Spaniards informed us that there was often found in the woods a most mischievous serpent, called the flying snake, which, they said, darted itself from the boughs of trees on either man or beast that came within its reach, and whose sting they took to be inevitable death.' There was a species of serpent which the Greeks called Αξοντίας Acontias, and the Roman Jaculus, from their swift darting motion, and perhaps the same species is here referred to which Lucan calls Jaculique volucres. That these venomous reptiles abounded in Egypt is expressly testified by profane writers. Thus Ammianus says (xxii. 15), that 'Egypt nourishes innumerable serpents, basilisks, and twoheaded serpents (amphisbaenas), and the seytalus (a serpent of a glistening color), and the acontias (Latin, Jaculus), and adders, and vipers, and many others.'

They will carry their riches - Presents, designed to induce the Egyptians to enter into the alliance. That it was a common custom to make presents when one king sent an embassy to another, whether the design was to show friendship or civility, or to form an alliance, is well known in regard to all the nations of the East. The custom prevails at the present day, and is often referred to in Scripture (see 1 Kings 15:19; 2 Kings 16:8; 2 Kings 18:14-15).

6. burden—the prophecy as to, &c. [Maurer]; so the Septuagint, the fresh inscription here marks emphatically the prediction that follows. Or, rather, Isaiah sees in vision, the ambassador's beasts burdened with rich presents travelling southwards (namely, to Egypt, Da 11:5, 6), and exclaims, Oh, the burden of treasure on the beasts! &c. (Ho 8:9; 12:1).

land of trouble—the desert between Palestine and Egypt, destitute of water and abounding in dangerous animals (De 8:15; Jer 2:6).

flying serpent—(Isa 14:29), a species which springs like a dart from trees, on its prey.

will carry—rather, present, "carry," namely, as presents to Egypt (1Ki 15:19).

young asses—rather, "full-grown asses" [Maurer].

The burden; either

1. The prophecy; which if oft called the burden; or rather

2. The burden of riches or treasures, as it is explained in the latter part of the verse.

Of the beasts of the south; which is carried upon asses or camels, as it follows, into Egypt, which lay southward from Judea.

Into the land of trouble and anguish; into Egypt and Ethiopia or Cush; for both are joined together in this matter, Isaiah 20, whole land seems to be called a land of trouble and anguish prophetically, because they should distress them, and not help them; as was said of the Assyrians in the like case, 2 Chronicles 28:20, some render it, by or through the land, &c., and understand it of the vast wilderness which lay between Judea and Egypt. But it was more proper and important to speak of the land to which these man and beasts went, than of that through which they were to pass; which it was needless so particularly to describe. Nor was the direct road from Judea to Egypt such a place as is here described.

The young and old lion; which may be understood properly, because these and the following creatures did abound, and were very fierce and mischievous, in Egypt and Ethiopia; but withal, seems to design the craft and cruelty of that people, and the danger of their confederacy with them, and the harm which they should have from them.

Fiery flying serpent: that there were flying serpents in those parts, is affirmed, not only in Scripture, bout also by Herodotus, Cicero, and Ammianus, and divers other authors. They; the Jews, designed by the same pronoun,

they, Isa 30 5,

will carry their riches; either,

1. To secure them; or rather,

2. To procure their assistance. Upon the shoulders of young asses; much used there for carrying burdens, as is evident from Genesis 32:15 45:23, &c.

Upon the bunches; upon the backs, which were strengthened with bunches, by a synecdoche.

The burden of the beasts of the south,.... Some think this begins a new prophecy, and this the name and inscription of it. The Septuagint version is,

"the vision of the four footed beasts in the wilderness;''

and Kimchi's note is,

"this prophecy, which he prophesied, that the beasts of the south should go out, meaning the beasts of the wilderness, and devour those that went to seek help from Egypt;''

but it respects the same thing as before, as appears by what follows; namely, the messengers going down to Egypt, which lay south of Judea, as Jarchi and Kimchi, Ben Melech and Abarbinel, observe, with beasts carrying riches thither, either for safety, or to obtain help from them:

into a land of trouble and anguish; as it had been to their fathers formerly, and would be no otherwise to them now, notwithstanding their high raised expectations of assistance from them; there may be an allusion to its name Mizraim:

from whence come the young and old lion, the viper, and fiery flying serpent; creatures with which Egypt abounded, as historians relate, and where some of them, at least, were worshipped, and where also men dwelt comparable to these creatures, as for craft and cruelty; though some understand this not of the country of Egypt, into which they went, but of the desert of Arabia, which lay between Judea and Egypt, through which they went; which was a land of trouble and anguish, for want of water, and because of these noxious creatures, of which it was full; see Deuteronomy 8:15,

they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses; which were much used in Judea to carry burdens on, and which were laid chiefly on their shoulders; and this denotes the great quantity of riches that would be, and were carried into Egypt, either by the ambassadors, as presents to the Egyptians, to gain their friendship and assistance; or else by some of the principal inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea, who, upon hearing of the invasion by Sennacherib, gathered up their riches, and fled to Egypt with them for safety, making use of young asses and camels, as follow:

and their treasures upon the bunches of camels; much used in travelling through the deserts of Arabia, and which have some one, some two humps on their backs, whereby they are better fitted to carry burdens. The word is of the singular number, and only used in this place; and has the signification of honey, as the camels hump is so called, as Jarchi from the Talmud (h) says, because, when hurt, it is healed by anointing it with honey; and upon these they carried their money and jewels they had treasured up:

to a people that shall not profit them; the Egyptians, who were of no service to the Jews, to free them from the invasion of the Assyrians.

(h) Bava Metzia, fol. 38. 1. Sabbat. fol. 154. 2.

The {d} burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from which come the young and the old lion, the viper and flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young donkeys, and their treasures upon the humps of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.

(d) That is, a heavy sentence or prophecy against the beasts that carried their treasures into Egypt, by the wilderness, which was south from Judah, signifying that if the beasts would not be spared, the men would be punished much more grievously.

6. trouble and anguish] Better perhaps distress and hardship, cf. Deuteronomy 8:15; Jeremiah 2:6.

the young and old lion] R.V. the lioness and the lion. Hebrew (like Arabic) possesses a superfluity of synonyms for the lion.

fiery flying serpent] winged Saraph. See on Isaiah 6:2, Isaiah 14:29; cf. Numbers 21:6. These are some of the terrors braved by the Jewish envoys in the prosecution of their foolhardy enterprise.

they will carry (R.V. they carry) their riches, &c.] The ambassadors take with them a whole caravan of presents to the Egyptian courts.

6, 7. These verses are marked as an independent oracle by a heading in the enigmatic style of those in ch. 21, 22. Some commentators regard the title as an editorial note which has crept into the text from the margin; but the substance of the oracle, which is a parallel to, rather than a continuation of, Isaiah 30:1-5, favours the supposition that it was originally distinct. From the analogy of Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 21:13, Isaiah 22:1, we should expect the superscription to be suggested by some striking phrase in the body of the prophecy. There is, however, nothing in the text as it stands to suggest “beasts of the south.” “The south” means the Negeb, the desert region to the south of Judah, traversed by the Jewish ambassadors on their way to Egypt. The “beasts” might be either the beasts of burden painfully making their way through it (Isaiah 30:6) or the wild animals by which it is haunted (Isaiah 30:6). That the expression refers to the hippopotamus (Job 40:15) as a symbol of Egypt is a hazardous speculation. The text is probably corrupt, and Duhm’s suggestion that the title reproduces some lost words at the beginning of the oracle is probably on the right track, although his proposed reconstruction may not command assent.

Verse 6. - Burden of the beasts of the south. Delitzsch thinks that the Egyptians are intended by the "beasts of the south" - the expression pointing primarily to the hippopotamus, which was an apt emblem of the slow-moving Egyptians. But most commentators regard the "beasts" of this clause as equivalent to the "young asses and camels" mentioned towards the end of the verse. (On the sense of the word "burden," see the introductory paragraph to Isaiah 13.) Into the lane of trouble and anguish; rather, through a laud. It is not Egypt that is spoken of, but the desert between Judaea and Egypt. The reminiscences of this desert were such that the Israelites always exaggerated its terrors and dangers (see Deuteronomy 8:15; Jeremiah 2:6). From whence come the young and old lion; rather, the lioness and the lion (see 'Speaker's Commentary' on Genesis 49:9; vol. 1. p. 227). Lions can never have been numerous in the tract in question; but they may have haunted portions of it, when it was better watered than at present. The viper and fiery flying serpent. Snakes of various kinds have always been abundant in the desert between Judaea and Egypt (Numbers 21:6; Strab., 16. p. 759; Schubert,' Travels,' sol. it. p. 406; Burckhardt, 'Travels,' p. 499, etc.). Seine of them were believed anciently to have wings (Herod., 2:75; 3:107); but the fact is doubted. Isaiah is not concerned with natural history, but with definitely marking out the locality through which the ambassadors would march. For this purpose it was best to describe it in terms drawn from the popular belief. Their riches... their treasures. Ambassadors who came to request military aid, as a matter of course carried rich presents with them. Young asses... camels. The ordinary beasts of burden employed in the passage of the desert (Genesis 37:25; Genesis 42:26; Herod., 3:9, etc.). Isaiah 30:6The prophet's address is hardly commenced, however, when a heading is introduced of the very same kind as we have already met with several times in the cycle of prophecies against the heathen nations. Gesenius, Hitzig, Umbreit, and Knobel, rid themselves of it by pronouncing it a gloss founded upon a misunderstanding. But nothing is more genuine in the whole book of Isaiah than the words massâ' bahămōth negebh . The heading is emblematical, like the four headings in chapters 21, 22. And the massâ' embraces Isaiah 30:6, Isaiah 30:7. Then follows the command to write it on a table by itself. The heading is an integral part of the smaller whole. Isaiah breaks off his address to communicate an oracle relating to the Egyptian treaty, which Jehovah has specially commanded him to hand down to posterity. The same interruption would take place if we expunged the heading; for in any case it was Isaiah 30:6, Isaiah 30:7 that he was to write upon a table. This is not an address to the people, but the preliminary text, the application of which is determined afterwards. The prophet communicates in the form of a citation what has been revealed to him by God, and then states what God has commanded him to do with it. We therefore enclose Isaiah 30:6, Isaiah 30:7 in inverted commas as a quotation, and render the short passage, which is written in the tone of chapter 21, as follows: "Oracle concerning the water-oxen of the south: Through a land of distress and confinement, whence the lioness and lion, adders and flying dragons; they carry their possessions on the shoulders of asses' foals, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a nation that profits nothing. And Egypt, worthlessly and hollowly will they help; therefore I call this Egypt, Great-mouth that sits still." The "water-ox of the south" is the Nile-horse; and this is the emblem of Egypt, the land of the south (in Daniel and Zechariah Babylonia is "the land of the north"). Bahămōth is the construct of behēmōth (Job 40), which is a Hebraized from of an Egyptian word, p-ehe-mau (though the word itself has not yet been met with), i.e., the ox of the water, or possibly p-ehe-mau-t (with the feminine article at the close, though in hesmut, another name for a female animal, mut equals t. mau signifies "the mother:" see at Job 40:15). The animal referred to is the hippopotamus, which is called bomarino in Italian, Arab. the Nile-horse or water-pig. The emblem of Egypt in other passages of the Old Testament is tannin, the water-snake, or leviathan, the crocodile. In Psalm 78:31 this is called chayyath qâneh, "the beast of the reed," though Hengstenberg supposes that the Nile-horse is intended there. This cannot be maintained, however; but in the passage before us this emblem is chosen, just because the fat, swine-like, fleshy colossus, whose belly nearly touches the ground as it walks, is a fitting image of Egypt, a land so boastful and so eager to make itself thick and broad, and yet so slow to exert itself in the interest of others, and so unwilling to move from the spot. This is also implied in the name rahabh-hēm-shâb. Rahab is a name applied to Egypt in other passages also (Isaiah 51:9; Psalm 87:4; Psalm 89:11), and that in the senses attested by the lxx at Job 26:12 (cf., Isaiah 9:13), viz., κῆτος, a sea-monster, monstrum marinum. Here the name has the meaning common in other passages, viz., violence, domineering pride, boasting (ἀλαζονεία, as one translator renders it). הם is a term of comparison, as in Genesis 14:2-3, etc.; the plural refers to the people called rahabh. Hence the meaning is either, "The bragging people, they are sit-still;" or, "Boast-house, they are idlers." To this deceitful land the ambassadors of Judah were going with rich resources (chăyâlı̄m, opes) on the shoulder of asses' foals, and on the hump (dabbesheth, from dâbhash, according to Luzzatto related to gâbhash, to be hilly) of camels, without shrinking from the difficulties and dangers of the road through the desert, where lions and snakes spring out now here and now there (מהם, neuter, as in Zephaniah 2:7, comp. Isaiah 38:16; see also Deuteronomy 8:15; Numbers 21:6). Through this very desert, through which God had led their fathers when He redeemed them out of the bondage of Egypt, they were now marching to purchase the friendship of Egypt, though really, whatever might be the pretext which they offered, it was only to deceive themselves; for the vainglorious land would never keep the promises that it made.
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