Isaiah 31:4
For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.
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(4) Like as the lion . . .—The similitude is note worthy, as for its fulness and vividness, so also for the fact that the lion is made the symbol, not of destruction, but protection. As the king of beasts stands haughtily defiant over the prey which he has made his own against the shepherds who seek to rob him of it, so will Jehovah, in His character as the Lord of hosts, refuse to surrender Jerusalem, His peculiar possession, to the armies of the Assyrians. (Comp. Homer, Il., 18:161.)

To fight for Mount Zion.—The preposition has been differently rendered as for, on, against. The lion in the last case is claiming the sheep as his own prey, and will not suffer interference from without. Jehovah, using the Assyrian armies as His instruments, will fight against Jerusalem, and will not allow the Egyptian allies to interfere with His chastisements. (Comp. Isaiah 29:7-8.) The second clause simply marks Jerusalem as the scene of the conflict, but agrees in substance with the first. Looking to the verse that follows, the idea of protection seems more natural than that of hostility. The thought of supreme ownership, however, includes both; Jerusalem belonged to Jehovah to protect or to chastise.

Isaiah 31:4-5. For, or but or, nevertheless, thus hath the Lord spoken — That is, although you have done evil in sending to Egypt for help, and they will not be able to help you, yet the Lord will of his own grace, and for the glory of his own name, give you that help and deliverance which you do not deserve, and had no reason to expect from him. Like as the lion roaring on his prey — When he is ready to seize upon and devour it; he will not be afraid, nor abase himself — So as to be in the least moved, either to quit his prey, or to make any more haste than otherwise he would do in seizing it. So shall the Lord of hosts fight for mount Zion — With such an unshaken and undaunted resolution, not to be moved by any opposition: and he will as easily and irresistibly destroy the Assyrian army, as a lion tears a lamb in pieces. As birds flying, &c. — Which come from above, and so cannot be kept off; which fly swiftly, and engage themselves readily and resolutely, when they perceive their young ones are in danger. Bishop Lowth renders the clause, As the mother birds hovering over their young; so shall Jehovah, God of hosts, protect Jerusalem — With such care and compassion, such swiftness and resolution. Defending also he will deliver it — That is, he will so defend it as to secure the continuance of its safety, and not suffer it to fall into the enemy’s hand. And passing over he will preserve it — The word פסוח, here rendered passing over, is the word constantly used of the destroying angel’s passing over the houses of the Israelites, when he slew all the firstborn of the Egyptians, (Exodus 12.,) to which history the prophet seems here to refer. The destroying angel was to pass over Jerusalem, and leave it untouched, although it deserved to be destroyed, and was only to smite the Assyrian army. The besiegers were to be slain by the pestilence, but none of the besieged were to take the infection.

31:1-5 God will oppose the help sought from workers of iniquity. Sinners may be convicted of folly by plain and self-evident truths, which they cannot deny, but will not believe. There is no escaping the judgments of God; and evil pursues sinners. The Lord of hosts will come down to fight for Mount Zion. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will appear for the defence of his church. And as birds hovering over their young ones to protect them, with such compassion and affection will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem. He will so defend it, as to secure its safety.For thus hath the Lord spoken - The design of this verse and the following is to assure the Jews of the certain protection of Yahweh, and thus to induce them to put their trust in him rather than to seek the alliance with Egypt. To do this the prophet makes use of two striking illustrations, the first of which is, that Yahweh would be no more alarmed at the number and power of their enemies than a fierce lion would be that was intent on his prey, and could not be frightened from it by any number of men that should come against him. The "point" of this comparison is, that as the lion that "was intent on his purpose" could not be frightened from it by numbers, so it would be with Yahweh, who "was equally intent on his purpose" - the defense of the city of Jerusalem. It does not mean, of course, that the purpose of God and of the lion resembled each other, but merely that there was similar "intensity of purpose," and similar adherence to it notwithstanding all opposition. The figure is one that denotes the highest vigilance, firmness, steadiness, and a determination on the part of Yahweh that Jerusalem should not fall into the hands of the Assyrians.

Like as the lion - The divine nature and purposes are often represented in the Scriptures by metaphors, allegories, and comparisons taken from animals, and especially from the lion (see Deuteronomy 33:20; Job 10:16; Psalm 7:2; Hosea 11:10).

And the young lion - The vigorous, strong, fierce lion. The use of the two here, gives intensity and strength to the comparison. It is observable that the lion is seldom mentioned alone in the Scriptures.

Roaring on his prey - Roaring as he seizes on his prey. This is the moment of the greatest intensity of purpose in the lion, and it is therefore used by Isaiah to denote the intense purpose of Yahweh to defend Jerusalem, and not to be deterred by any number of enemies.

When a multitude of shepherds is called forth - When the neighborhood is alarmed, and all the inhabitants turn out to destroy him. This comparison is almost exactly in the spirit and language of Homer, "Il." xii. 209, following:

So pressed with hunger from the mountain's brow,

Descends a lion on the flocks below;

So stalks the lordly savage o'er the plain,

In sullen majesty and stern disdain:

In vain loud mastiffs bay him from afar,

And shepherds gall him with an iron war;

Regardless, furious, he pursues his way;

He foams, he roars, he rends the panting prey.



4. (Isa 42:13; Ho 11:10).

roaring on—"growling over" his prey.

abase himself—be disheartened or frightened.

For; or, but; or, nevertheless, as this particle is elsewhere used, as hath been proved before. Although you have done evil in sending to Egypt for help, and they shall not be able to help you; yet the Lord himself will, of his own grace, and for the glory of his own name, give you that help and deliverance which you do not deserve, and have no reason to expect from him. And therefore desist from those evil courtels and courses, as those which are both unnecessary and pernicious.

Roaring on his prey; when he is ready to seize upon it, and devour it.

He will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself: it hath been observed of lions, that when they are pursued, they do not run away with all speed, as other creatures do, but march away slowly, and make an honourable retreat. For: although this Hebrew particle might be rendered against, and so this place might be understood of God’s fighting against the Jews and Egyptians, of which he speaks Isaiah 31:3; yet it is better rendered for, as it is taken in many other places, as is manifest from the following similitude and verse.

For thus hath the Lord spoken unto me,.... The prophet Isaiah, who had heard and received what follows from the Lord, and therefore it might be depended upon; and they are words of grace and mercy, promising preservation and deliverance; and therefore it was a foolish thing to send to Egypt for help:

Like as the lion, and the young lion roaring on his prey; or "muttering", or "growling over his prey" (r); for the lion roars when he is hungry, and wants a prey, and not when he has got one; but when he has one, and is tearing it in pieces, and feeding upon it, he makes a lower noise, a growling one, especially when he apprehends anyone near to disturb him:

when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him; or, "a fulness of shepherds" (s); the whole posse of them, all that are in the towns and villages, or fields adjacent: who, when a lion has got a lamb or sheep out of the flock, are alarmed and called together, to deliver it, if possible, out of his hands; one not daring to venture, or being not sufficient to disturb him, or drive him away: or, "when a multitude of shepherds meet him" (t); with the prey in his jaws; or rather "call to him", make a noise, in hopes to frighten him, and cause him to drop his prey, that being all they can do, not daring to go near him; which sense is confirmed by what follows:

he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them; he will not leave and lose his prey, or flee from it or them, for the yell and confused noise they make; nor move at all the faster for them, not being in the least intimidated by them:

so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof; that is, he shall come down from heaven by his angel, or in the display of his mighty power, and fight against the Assyrian army, in favour of his people, the inhabitants of Zion or Jerusalem, and deliver them; and there will be no more withstanding him, or putting him off from his purpose, or preventing his good designs and resolutions, than the shepherds are able to divert a lion from his prey. The simile is expressive of the power of God, and of his certain accomplishment of his purposes and promises.

(r) "ab" "mussitare." (s) "plenitudo pastorum", Montanus, De Dieu, Cocceius. A collection of them, as Ben Melech. (t) "quando in occursum illius venit", Munster.

For thus hath the LORD spoken to me, As the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come {e} down to fight for mount Zion, and for its hill.

(e) He shows the Jews that if they would put their trust in him, he is so able, that no one can resist his power and so care over them, as a bird over her young, which ever flies about them for their defence: which similitude the scripture uses in various places, as in De 32:11, Mt 23:37.

4. The verse reads: As the lion growls, and the young lion over his prey, against whom the whole band of shepherds has been called out—he is not terrified by their cry, nor dismayed at their shouting—so Jehovah of Hosts will come down, &c. Compare with this truly Homeric simile Il. 18:161 f., 12:299 ff. It is unfortunate that so graphic an image should be thought capable of two diametrically opposite interpretations. According to many commentators it expresses Jehovah’s determination to defend Jerusalem against the Assyrians. But the figure would certainly be “ill-chosen” if the lion were represented as protecting his prey and the shepherds as anxious to destroy it. The only natural construction is that Jehovah (through the Assyrians, as in Isaiah 29:3-4) will hold Jerusalem helpless in His power as the lion holds his prey; though the noisy crowd of shepherds (the Egyptians) try to scare him away. The only advantage of the other view is that the transition from threatening to promise would be somewhat less abrupt at the beginning of Isaiah 31:4 than at the beginning of Isaiah 31:5; but that is not a sufficient reason for straining the figure in the way proposed.

to fight for mount Zion, and for] Render: to fight against … and against, as in every other case where the phrase occurs (ch. Isaiah 29:7-8; Numbers 31:7; Zechariah 14:12). The translation “upon mount Zion and upon” is only adopted in order to maintain the favourable construction of the verse.

Verses 4-9. - A PROMISE OF PROTECTION, AND OF THE DISCOMFITURE OF ASSYRIA. In the promise of protection (vers. 4, 5) there is nothing new but the imagery, which is of remarkable beauty. The promise is followed by a brief exhortation (vers. 6, 7); and then the discomfiture of Assyria is declared in the plainest terms, and her flight before the avenging sword of God (vers. 8, 9). Verse 4. - Like as the lion, etc. The resemblance of this simile to Hem., 'Iliad,' 18:11. 161, 162, has been often noticed. In both, the lion has seized his prey, and is crouching over it; the shepherds gather themselves together against him, and seek to scare him away; but he remains firm, undaunted by their threats and cries, never for a moment relinquishing the body of which he has made himself the master. The image is best explained as representing Jehovah, standing over and keeping guard on Jerusalem, which he will allow, no one to rend from him. And the young lion; rather, even the young lion (Lowth). A single animal must be intended. Roaring on his prey; rather, growleth over his prey. So shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion; rather, so shall the Lord of hosts descend, to fight, on Mount Zion. If we connect the concluding words of the clause with tsaba, to fight, the meaning must be "fight against," as Delitzsch shows conclusively. But we may connect them with the more distant yered, will descend, in which case they will mean "on," or "upon Mount Zion" (comp. Exodus 19:18; Psalm 133:3). The best commentators are of opinion that this must be the sense. The words are a promise, not a threat. Isaiah 31:4And things of this kind would occur. "For thus hath Jehovah spoken to me, As the lion growls, and the young lion over its prey, against which a whole crowd of shepherds is called together; he is not alarmed at their cry, and does not surrender at their noise; so will Jehovah of hosts descend to the campaign against the mountain of Zion, and against their hill." There is no other passage in the book of Isaiah which sounds so Homeric as this (vid., Il. xviii. 161, 162, xii. 299ff.). It has been misunderstood by Knobel, Umbreit, Drechsler, and others, who suppose על לצבּא to refer to Jehovah's purpose to fight for Jerusalem: Jehovah, who would no more allow His city to be taken from Him, than a lion would give up a lamb that it had taken as its prey. But how could Jerusalem be compared to a lamb which a lion holds in its claws as tereph? (Isaiah 5:29). We may see, even from Isaiah 29:7, what construction is meant to be put upon על צבא. Those sinners and their protectors would first of all perish; for like a fierce indomitable lion would Jehovah advance against Jerusalem, and take it as His prey, without suffering Himself to be thwarted by the Judaeans and Egyptians, who set themselves in opposition to His army (The Assyrians). The mountain of Zion was the citadel and temple; the hill of Zion the city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:32). They would both be given up to the judgment of Jehovah, without any possibility of escape. The commentators have been misled by the fact, that a simile of a promising character follows immediately afterwards, without anything to connect the one with the other. But this abrupt μετάβασις was intended as a surprise, and was a true picture of the actual fulfilment of the prophecy; for in the moment of the greatest distress, when the actual existence of Jerusalem was in question (cf., Isaiah 10:33-34), the fate of Ariel took suddenly and miraculously a totally different turn (Isaiah 29:2). In this sense, a pleasant picture is placed side by side with the terrible one (compare Micah 5:6-7).
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