Isaiah 32:20
Blessed are you that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.
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(20) Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters.—The picture of a golden age of agriculture receives its final touch. The whole land should be irrigated by calmly flowing streams, and men should cast their seed broadcast, and the oxen and the asses should draw the plough over a rich and fertile land. The whole land should be under tillage, instead of being left to supply (as in Isaiah 7:21-22) a poor and meagre pasturage, or to bring forth nothing but the “thorns and briars” of Isaiah 32:13. It is obvious that here also a spiritual meaning underlies the literal.

Isaiah 32:20. Blessed are ye that sow, &c. — As the barren forest shall be destroyed, so the fruitful field shall be improved and bring forth much fruit, which is signified by a declaration of the blessedness of them that sow in it; beside all waters — In all moist and flat grounds which are likely to yield good fruit; or, in every well-watered place, as Bishop Lowth renders it, who quotes Sir John Chardin as observing, that the place exactly answers the manner of planting rice in the East; concerning which, see the note on Ecclesiastes 11:1. But this passage, as well as that in the foregoing verses, is to be understood mystically of the times of the gospel, and of the great and happy success of the ministers of it, whose spiritual sowing of the word, accompanied with the influences of the Holy Ghost, produced much fruit in the Gentile nations, to the glory of God and their own comfort. 32:9-20 When there was so much provocation given to the holy God, bad times might be expected. Alas! how many careless ones there are, who support self-indulgence by shameful niggardliness! We deserve to be deprived of the supports of life, when we make them the food of lusts. Let such tremble and be troubled. Blessed times shall be brought in by the pouring out of the Spirit from on high; then, and not till then, there will be good times. The present state of the Jews shall continue until a more abundant pouring out of the Spirit from on high. Peace and quietness shall be found in the way and work of righteousness. True satisfaction is to be had only in true religion. And real holiness is real happiness now, and shall be perfect happiness, that is, perfect holiness for ever. The good seed of the word shall be sown in all places, and be watered by Divine grace; and laborious, patient labourers shall be sent forth into God's husbandry.Blessed are ye - The sense of this verse is, that while the enemies of the Jews would be overthrown, they themselves would be permitted to cultivate their lands in security. Instead of predicting this directly, the prophet implies that this would occur, by declaring that those who were permitted to do this were happy.

That sow beside all waters - Hebrew, 'Upon (על ‛al) all waters.' This may mean that they selected places near running streams as being most fertile; or it may refer, as Lowth supposes, to the manner of sowing grain, and particularly rice, in eastern countries. This is done by casting the seed upon the water. This custom is referred to in Ecclesiastes 11:1 : 'Cast thy bread,' that is, thy seed, 'upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days;' that is, cast thy seed upon the waters when the river overflows the banks, and the seed will sink into the slime and mud, and will spring up when the waters subside, and you will find it again after many days in a rich and luxuriant harvest. Sir John Chardin thus describes this mode of sowing: They sow it (the rice) upon the water; and before sowing, while the earth is covered with water, they cause the ground to be trodden by oxen, horses, and asses, who go mid-leg deep; and this is the way they prepare the ground for sowing' (Harmer's Obs. vol. i. p. 280).

That send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass - That is, for the purpose of treading the earth while the water is on it, and preparing it for the seed. In this way the ground would need no plowing, but the seed would fall into the slime, and be sufficiently covered when the waters should subside. The idea in this verse is, that there would be a state of security succeeding the destruction of their enemies; and that they would be permitted to pursue the cultivation of the soil, unannoyed and undisturbed.

20. While the enemy shall be brought "low," the Jews shall cultivate their land in undisturbed prosperity.

all waters—well-watered places (Isa 30:25). The Hebrew translation, "beside," ought rather to be translated, "upon" (Ec 11:1), where the meaning is, "Cast thy seed upon the waters when the river overflows its banks; the seed will sink into the mud and will spring up when the waters subside, and you will find it after many days in a rich harvest." Before sowing, they send oxen, &c., into the water to tread the ground for sowing. Castalio thinks there is an allusion to the Mosaic precept, not to plough with an ox and ass together, mystically implying that the Jew was to have no intercourse with Gentiles; the Gospel abolishes this distinction (Col 3:11); thus the sense here is, Blessed are ye that sow the gospel seed without distinction of race in the teachers or the taught. But there is no need of supposing that the ox and ass here are yoked together; they are probably "sent forth" separately, as in Isa 30:24.

Blessed are ye that sow: as the barren forest shall be destroyed with hail, Isaiah 32:19, so the fruitful field shall be improved, and bring forth much fruit; which is signified by a declaration of the blessedness of them that sow in it.

Beside all waters; in all moist and fat grounds, which are like to yield good fruit. But this passage, as well as others in the foregoing verses, is to be understood mystically, and seems to respect the times of the gospel. The prophet reflecting upon his own unsuccessful labours, of which he complains, Isaiah 49:4, and elsewhere, and foreseeing by, the Spirit the great and happy success of his successors, the ministers of the gospel, tacitly bewails his own unhappiness, who sowed his seed upon dry and barren ground, by congratulating the happiness of the apostles, who sowed their seed more generally, upon all fit grounds, without any distinction between Jews and Gentiles; and who found the ground, to wit, the hearts of the people, more moistened and softened, and better prepared to receive the good seed of God’s word.

The ox and the ass; which creatures they employed in ploughing and sowing the ground, Deu 22:10 Psalm 144:14 Isaiah 30:24. Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters,.... In places well watered and moistened, and so fit to receive the seed sown, which grows up, and brings forth much fruit, and amply rewards the pains of the sower, who on that account is happy. These words are directed to the ministers of the Gospel in the latter day; the word is compared to seed, and the preachers of it to sowers of seed, who have a commission to preach the Gospel to every creature; and in the latter day, in the spiritual reign of Christ, to which the whole paragraph refers, they will sow the seed of the word "by many waters"; or among great multitudes of people, signified hereby, and with great success, great numbers both of Jews and Gentiles will be converted:

that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass; which were used in ploughing and tilling the earth, and in making it fit to sow the seed in it, and to eat off the heads of grain when it is grown thick and full, which some think is here meant; and the one might also be used to gather it in when ripe, and the other to tread and thresh it, as the Targum and Jarchi interpret it; there being a law given the Jews, that these two should not work together, Deuteronomy 22:10 and from hence it may be concluded, that these words refer to a time when this law should be abolished; and the Jews themselves apply it to the times of the Messiah (r); and it undoubtedly points to Gospel times, and even to those times when the Jews shall be converted, and great numbers among the Gentiles also, who shall join together in spreading the Gospel, and in promoting the interest of Christ.

(r) Debarim Rabba, sect. 6. fol. 241. 4.

Blessed are ye {n} that sow beside all waters, that {o} send forth there the feet of the ox and the donkey.

(n) That is, upon fat ground and well watered, which brings forth in abundance, or in places which before were covered with waters, and now made dry for your uses.

(o) The fields will be so rank, that they will send out their cattle to eat up the first crop, which abundance will be signs of God's love and favour toward them.

20. The prophet apostrophises the happy agricultural population of the renovated land of Israel. The sentiment may be in part due to his own delight in the avocations of the husbandman, but it has to be remembered that agricultural prosperity naturally holds a prominent place in Messianic prophecy, as the antithesis to the false refinements and military pomp of the civilisation that is to be swept away. The features of the description are, the happiness of the people, the abundance of water for the irrigation of the fields, and immunity from danger, so that “the ox and the ass” can be safely driven out to pasture, without fear of their not returning (cf. ch. Isaiah 1:3). The “thither” of the A.V. is a misleading insertion.Verse 20. - Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters. The idyllic picture, begun in ver. 15, terminates here. The people of the kingdom have a well-watered land (Isaiah 30:25), where they live peacefully, sowing their seed beside the water-courses, and having abundant pasture for their peaceful beasts - the ox and the ass (comp. Isaiah 30:24). A spiritual meaning doubtless underlies the literal sense.

This short address, although rounded off well, is something more than a fragment complete in itself, like the short parabolic piece in Isaiah 28:23-29, which commences in a similar manner. It is the last part of the fourth woe, just as that was the last part of the first. It is a side piece to the threatening prophecy of the time of Uzziah-Jotham (Isaiah 3:16.), and chastises the frivolous self-security of the women of Jerusalem, just as the former chastises their vain and luxurious love of finery. The prophet has now uttered many a woe upon Jerusalem, which is bringing itself to the verge of destruction; but notwithstanding the fact that women are by nature more delicate, and more easily affected and alarmed, than men, he has made no impression upon the women of Jerusalem, to whom he now foretells a terrible undeceiving of their carnal ease, whilst he holds out before them the ease secured by God, which can only be realized on the ruins of the former.

The first part of the address proclaims the annihilation of their false ease. "Ye contented women, rise up, hear my voice; ye confident daughters, hearken to my speech! Days to the year: then will ye tremble, confident ones! for it is all over with the vintage, the fruit harvest comes to nought. Tremble, contented ones! Quake, ye confident ones! Strip, make yourselves bare, and gird your loins with sackcloth! They smite upon their breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. On the land of my people there come up weeds, briers; yea, upon all joyous houses of the rejoicing city. For the palace is made solitary; the crowd of the city is left desolate; the ofel and watch-tower serve as caves for ever, for the delight of wild asses, for the tending of flocks." The summons is the same as in Genesis 4:23 and Jeremiah 9:19 (comp. Isaiah 28:23); the attributes the same as in Amos 6:1 (cf., Isaiah 4:1, where Isaiah apostrophizes the women of Samaria). שׁאנן, lively, of good cheer; and בּטח, trusting, namely to nothing. They are to rise up (qōmnâh), because the word of God must be heard standing (Judges 3:20). The definition of the time "days for a year" (yâmı̄m ‛al-shânâh) appears to indicate the length of time that the desolation would last, as the word tirgaznâh is without any Vav apod. (cf., Isaiah 65:24; Job 1:16-18); but Isaiah 29:1 shows us differently, and the Vav is omitted, just as it is, for example, in Daniel 4:28. Shânâh is the current year. In an undefined number of days, at the most a year from the present time (which is sometimes the meaning of yâmı̄m), the trembling would begin, and there would be neither grapes nor fruit to gather. Hence the spring harvest of corn is supposed to be over when the devastation begins. ימים is an acc. temporis; it stands here (as in Isaiah 27:6, for example; vid., Ewald, 293, 1) to indicate the starting point, not the period of duration. The milel-forms פּשׁטה, ערה, חגרה ,ערה , are explained by Ewald, Drechsler, and Luzzatto, as plur. fem. imper. with the Nun of the termination nâh dropped - an elision that is certainly never heard of. Others regard it as inf. with He femin. (Credner, Joel, p. 151); but קטלה for the infinitive קטלה is unexampled; and equally unexampled would be the inf. with He indicating the summons, as suggested by Bttcher, "to the shaking!" "to the stripping!" They are sing. masc. imper., such as occur elsewhere apart from the pause, e.g., מלוכה (for which the keri has מלכה) in Judges 9:8; and the singular in the place of the plural is the strongest form of command. The masculine instead of the feminine appears already in הרדוּ, which is used in the place of חרדנה. The prophet then proceeds in the singular number, comprehending the women as a mass, and using the most massive expression. The He introduced into the summons required that the feminine forms, רגזי, etc., should be given up. ערה, from ערר, to be naked, to strip one's self. חגרה absolute, as in Joel 1:13 (cf., Isaiah 3:24), signifies to gird one's self with sackcloth (saq). We meet with the same remarkable enall. generis in Isaiah 32:12. Men have no breasts (shâdaim), and yet the masculine sōphedı̄m is employed, inasmuch as the prophet had the whole nation in his mind, throughout which there would be such a plangere ubera on account of the utter destruction of the hopeful harvest of corn and wine. Shâdaim (breasts) and שׂדי (construct to sâdōth) have the same common ring as ubera and ubertas frugum. In Isaiah 32:13 ta‛ăleh points back to qōts shâmı̄r, which is condensed into one neuter idea. The ki in Isaiah 32:13 has the sense of the Latin imo (Ewald, 330, b). The genitive connection of עלּיזה קריה with משׂושׂ בּתּי (joy-houses of the jubilant city) is the same as in Isaiah 28:1. The whole is grammatically strange, just as in the Psalms the language becomes all the more complicated, disjointed, and difficult, the greater the wrath and indignation of the poet. Hence the short shrill sentences in Isaiah 32:14 : palace given up (cf., Isaiah 13:22); city bustle forsaken (i.e., the city generally so full of bustle, Isaiah 22:2). The use of בּעד is the same as in Proverbs 6:26; Job 2:4. ‛Ofel, i.e., the south-eastern fortified slope of the temple mountain, and the bachan (i.e., the watch-tower, possibly the flock-tower which is mentioned in Micah 4:8 along with ‛ofel), would be pro speluncis, i.e., would be considered and serve as such. And in the very place where the women of Jerusalem had once led their life of gaiety, wild asses would now have their delight, and flocks their pasture (on the wild asses, perâ'ı̄m, that fine animal of the woodless steppe, see at Job 24:5; Job 39:5-8). Thus would Jerusalem, with its strongest, proudest places, be laid in ruins, and that in a single year, or ever less than a year.

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