Isaiah 37:30
And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.
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(30) And this shall be a sign unto thee.—The prophet now turns to Hezekiah, and offers, as was his wont (Isaiah 7:11; Isaiah 38:8), a sign within the horizon of the nearer future as the pledge of the fulfilment of a prediction which had a wider range. It was then autumn, probably near the equinox, which was the beginning of a new year. The Assyrian invasion had stopped all tillage in the previous spring, and the people had to rely upon the spontaneous products of the fields. In the year that was about to open they would be still compelled to draw from the same source, but in twelve months’ time the land would be clear of the invaders, and agriculture would resume its normal course, and the fulfilment of this prediction within the appointed limit of time would guarantee that of the wider promise that follows.

37:1-38 This chapter is the same as 2Ki 19And this shall be a sign unto thee - It is evident that the discourse here is turned from Sennacherib to Hezekiah. Such transitions, without distinctly indicating them, are common in Isaiah. God had in the previous verses, in the form of a direct personal address, foretold the defeat of Sennacherib, and thc confusion of his plans. He here turns and gives to Hezekiah the assurance that Jerusalem would be delivered. On the meaning of the word 'sign,' see the note at Isaiah 7:14. Commentators have been much perplexed in the exposition of the passage before us, to know how that which was to occur one, two, or three years after the event, could be a sign of the fulfillment of the prophecy. Many have supposed that the year in which this was spoken was a Sabbatic year, in which the lands were not cultivated, but were suffered to lie still Leviticus 35:2-7; and that the year following was the year of Jubilee, in which also the lands were to remain uncultivated. They suppose that the idea is, that the Jews might be assured that they would not experience the evils of famine which they had anticipated from the Assyrians, because the divine promise gave them assurance of supply in the Sabbatic year, and in the year of Jubilee, and that although their fields had been laid waste by the Assyrian, yet their needs would be supplied, until on the third year they would be permitted in quietness to cultivate their land, and that this would be to them a sign, or a token of the divine interposition. But to this there are two obvious objections:

1. There is not the slightest evidence that the year in which Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem was a Sabbatic year, or that the following year was the Jubilee. No mention is made of this in the history, nor is it possible to prove it from any part of the sacred narrative.

2. It is still difficult to see, even if it were so, how that which was to occur two or three years after the event, could be a sign to Hezekiah then of the truth of what Isaiah had predicted.

Rosenmuller suggests that the two years in which they are mentioned as sustained by the spontaneous productions of the earth were the two years in which Judea had been already ravaged by Sennacherib, and that the third year was the one in which the prophet was now speaking, and that the prediction means that in that very year they would be permitted to sow and reap. In the explanation of the passage, it is to be observed that the word 'sign' is used in a variety of significations. It may be used as an indication of anything unseen Genesis 1:14; or as a military ensign Numbers 2:2; or as a sign of something future, an omen Isaiah 8:18; or as a token, argument, proof Genesis 17:2; Exodus 31:13. It may be used as a sign or token of the truth of a prophecy; that is, when some minor event furnishes a proof that the whole prophecy would be fulfilled Exodus 3:12; 1 Samuel 2:34; 1 Samuel 10:7, 1 Samuel 10:9. Or it may be used as a wonder, a prodigy, a miracle Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22.

In the case before us, it seems to mean that, in the events predicted here, Hezekiah would have a token or argument that the land was completely freed from the invasion of Sennacherib. Though a considerable part of his army would be destroyed; though the monarch himself would be compelled to flee, yet Hezekiah would not from that fact alone have the assurance that he would not rally his forces, and return to invade the land. There would be every inducement arising from disappointment and the rage of defeat for him to do it. To compose the mind of Hezekiah in regard to this, this assurance was given, that the land would be quiet, and that the fact that it would remain quiet during the remainder of that year, and to the third year would be a sign, or demonstration that the Assyrian army was entirely withdrawn, and that all danger of an invasion was at an end. The sign, therefore, does not refer so much to the past, as to the security and future prosperity which would be consequent thereon.

It would be an evidence to them that the nation would be safe, and would be favored with a high degree of prosperity (see Isaiah 37:31-32). It is possible that this invasion took place when it was too late to sow for that year, and that the land was so ravaged that it could not that year be cultivated. The harvests and the vincyards had been destroyed; and they would be dependent on that which the earth had spontaneously produced in those parts which had been untilled. As it was now too late to sow the land, they would be dependent in the following year on the same scanty supply. In the third year, however, they might cultivate their fields securely, and the former fertility would be restored.

Such as groweth of itself - The Hebrew word here (ספיח sâphı̂yach), denotes grain produced from the kernels of the former year, without new seed, and without cultivation. This, it is evident, would be a scanty supply; but we are to remember that the land had been ravaged by the army of the Assyrian.

That which springeth of the same - The word used here (שׁחיס shâchiys), in the parallel passage in 2 Kings 19:29 (סחישׁ sâchiysh), denotes that which grows of itself the third year after sowing. This production of the third year would be of course more scanty and less valuable than in the preceding year, and there can be no doubt that the Jews would be subjected to a considerable extent to the evils of want. Still, as the land would be quiet; as the people would be permitted to live in peace; it would be a sign to them that the Assyrian was finally and entirely withdrawn, and that they might return in the third year to the cultivation of their land with the assurance that this much-dreaded invasion was not again to be feared.

And in the third year - Then you may resume your agricultural operations with the assurance that you shall be undisturbed. Your two years of quiet shall have been a full demonstration to you that the Assyrian shall not return, and you may resume your employments with the assurance that all the evils of the invasion, and all apprehension of danger, are at an end.

30. Addressed to Hezekiah.

sign—a token which, when fulfilled, would assure him of the truth of the whole prophecy as to the enemy's overthrow. The two years, in which they were sustained by the spontaneous growth of the earth, were the two in which Judea had been already ravaged by Sennacherib (Isa 32:10). Thus translate: "Ye did eat (the first year) such as groweth of itself, and in the second year that … but in this third year sow ye," &c., for in this year the land shall be delivered from the foe. The fact that Sennacherib moved his camp away immediately after shows that the first two years refer to the past, not to the future [Rosenmuller]. Others, referring the first two years to the future, get over the difficulty of Sennacherib's speedy departure, by supposing that year to have been the sabbatical year, and the second year the jubilee; no indication of this appears in the context.

No text from Poole on this verse.

And this shall be a sign unto thee,.... Not to Sennacherib, but to Hezekiah; for here the Lord turns himself from the former, and directs his speech to the latter, in order to comfort him under the dreadful apprehensions he had of the Assyrian monarch, and his army; assuring him of deliverance; giving him a sign or token of it, and which was a wonder, as the word sometimes signifies, and was no less marvellous than the deliverance itself:

ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself: and the second year that which springeth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof: all which was very wonderful; for whereas, either through the invasion of the land, and the siege of the city, they could not till their land as they had used to do, or what was upon it was destroyed or eaten up by the Assyrian army; and yet, through the wonderful providence of God, the earth of its own accord yielded that very year a sufficiency for them; and though the second year was, as it is thought, a sabbatical year, when the land had rest, and by the law was not to be tilled, yet it also produced of itself what was sufficient for their support; and then the third year being entirely free from the enemy, and all fears of his return, they go about their business as formerly, to sowing and reaping corn, and planting vineyards, and enjoying the fruit of their labours; all which falling out according to this prediction, must greatly confirm the mind of Hezekiah, and make him easy as to any future attempt upon him he might fear. The Vulgate Latin version renders the second clause, "ye shall eat apples the second year"; and so Symmachus, but without foundation.

And this shall be a {y} sign to thee, Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the (z) second year that which springeth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.

(y) God gives signs after two sorts: some go before the thing as the signs that Moses worked in Egypt, which were for the confirmation of their faith, and some go after the thing, as the sacrifice, which they were commanded to make three days after their departure: and these latter are to keep the blessings of God in our remembrance, of which sort this here is.

(z) He promises that for two years the ground would feed them of itself.

30. The “sign” of this verse is of the same nature as that of Exodus 3:12, and ch. Isaiah 7:14. It consists of a series of events, in themselves natural, which will attest the fact that all the circumstances of the deliverance had been foreordained by Jehovah, and foretold by His prophet.

such as groweth of itself] Hebr. ṣâphîaḥ, the scanty crop produced by the shaken grains of the last harvest (Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11).

that which springeth of the same] shâḥîṣ or in 2 Kings shâḥîṣ, a word which does not occur elsewhere. It is explained to mean “that which springs from the roots” of the corn. The import of the sign at all events is that for two years the regular operations of agriculture will be suspended. It is uncertain how long a period of Assyrian occupation is thus contemplated. The year runs from October to October; and this year must apparently mean the year after that in which the crops were destroyed by the invader; for in that year there could hardly be even ṣâphîaḥ to eat. We may suppose that the prophecy was spoken in the beginning of the year, i.e. in the autumn of 701, before the usual season of ploughing. The question then arises, How long would the Assyrians require to remain in the land in order to destroy the prospects of two successive harvests? Wetzstein states that at the present day, unless the ground has been several times broken up in the previous summer the seed will be lost in the ground. If therefore the Assyrian occupation lasted into the summer of 700, it would interfere with the necessary preparations for a crop in the following year, the year of the shâḥîṣ. But even this limited period can hardly be reconciled with the actual result as recorded in Isaiah 37:36. Probably therefore the sign does not fix the term of the Assyrian occupation, but refers to wider effects of the invasion, the depopulation of the country, the destruction of homesteads, &c., which rendered an immediate resumption of agricultural activity impossible.

30–32. A sign is given to Hezekiah of the fulfilment of the preceding prophecy. But beyond the brief period of hardship which must follow the invasion, the prophet announces the advent of a new age in which all his hopes for the future of Israel shall be realised.

Verse 30. - This shall be a sign unto thee; rather, the sign. The prophet now turns to Hezekiah, and makes an address to him. "This," he says, "shall be the sign unto thee of Sennachcrib's being effectually 'bridled,' and the danger from Assyria over. In the third year from the present the land shall have returned to its normal condition, and you shall enjoy its fruits as formerly. Meanwhile you shall obtain sufficient nourishment from the grain which has sown itself." The "third year," according to Hebrew reckoning, might be little more than one year from the date of the delivery of the prophecy. The entire withdrawal of all the Assyrian garrisons from the country, which no doubt followed on Sennacherib's retreat, might well have occupied the greater part of a year. Till they were withdrawn, the Jews could not venture to till their territory. Plant vineyards. The Assyrians had, no doubt, cut down the vines (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 3. pp. 40, 62, 79; vol. 7. p. 43, etc.; Layard, 'Monuments of Nineveh,' second series, pl. 40). Isaiah 37:30I am wrong in describing it here as improbable that the land would have to be left uncultivated during the year 713-12 in consequence of the invasion that had taken place, even after the departure of the Assyrians. Wetzstein has referred me to his Appendix on the Monastery of Job (see Comm. on Job, Appendix), where he has shown that the fallow-land (wâghia) of a community, which is sown in the autumn of 1865 and reaped in the summer of 1866, must have been broken up, i.e., ploughed for the first time, in the winter of 1864-65. "If this breaking up of the fallow (el-Būr) were obliged to be omitted in the winter of 1864-65, because of the enemy being in the land, whether from the necessity for hiding the oxen in some place of security, or from the fact that they had been taken from the peasants and consumed by the foe, it would be impossible to sow in the autumn of 1865 and reap a harvest in the summer of 1866. And if the enemy did not withdraw till the harvest of 1865, only the few who had had their ploughing oxen left by the war would find it possible to break up the fallow. But neither the one nor the other could sow, if the enemy's occupation of the land had prevented them from ploughing in the winter of 1864-65. If men were to sow in the newly broken fallow, they would reap no harvest, and the seed would only be lost. It is only in the volcanic and therefore fertile region of Haurân (Bashan) that the sowing of the newly broken fallow (es-sikak) yields a harvest, and there it is only when the winter brings a large amount of rain; so that even in Haurân nothing but necessity leads any one to sow upon the sikak. In western Palestine, even in the most fruitful portions of it (round Samaria and Nazareth), the farmer is obliged to plough three times before he can sow; and a really good farmer follows up the breaking up of the fallow (sikak) in the winter, the second ploughing (thânia) in the spring, and the third ploughing (tethlith) in the summer, with a fourth (terbı̄a) in the latter part of the summer. Consequently no sowing could take place in the autumn of 713, if the enemy had been in the land in the autumn of 714, in consequence of his having hindered the farmer from the sikak in the winter of 714-3, and from the thânia and tethlith in the spring and summer of 713. There is no necessity, therefore, to assume that a second invasion took place, which prevented the sowing in the autumn of 713."

Isaiah 37:30The prophet now turns to Hezekiah. "And let this be a sign to thee, Men eat this year what is self-sown; and in the second year what springs from the roots (shâc, K. sâchı̄sh); and in the third year they sow and reap and plant vineyards, and eat (chethib אכול) their fruit." According to Thenius, hasshânâh (this year) signifies the first year after Sennacherib's invasions, hasshânâh hasshēnı̄th (the second year) the current year in which the words were uttered by Hezekiah, hasshânâh hasshelı̄shith (the third year) the year that was coming in which the land would be cleared of the enemy. But understood in this way, the whole would have been no sign, but simply a prophecy that the condition of things during the two years was to come to an end in the third. It would only be a "sign" if the second year was also still in the future. By hasshânâh, therefore, we are to understand what the expression itself requires (cf., Isaiah 29:1; Isaiah 32:10), namely the current year, in which the people had been hindered from cultivating their fields by the Assyrian who was then in the land, and therefore had been thrown back upon the sâphı̄ach, i.e., the after growth (αὐτόματα, lxx, the self-sown), or crop which had sprung up from the fallen grains of the previous harvest (from sâphach, adjicere, see at Habakkuk 2:15; or, according to others, effundere). It was autumn at the time when Isaiah gave this sign (Isaiah 33:9), and the current civil year was reckoned from one autumnal equinox to the other, as, for example, in Exodus 23:16, where the feast of tabernacles or harvest festival is said to fall at the close of the year; so that if the fourteenth year of Hezekiah was the year 714, the current year would extend from Tishri 714 to Tishri 713. But if in the next year also, 713-712, there was no sowing and reaping, but the people were to eat shâchis, i.e., that which grew of itself (αὐτοφυές, Aq., Theod.), and that very sparingly, not from the grains shed at the previous harvest, but from the roots of the wheat, we need not assume that this year, 713-712, happened to be a sabbatical year, in which the law required all agricultural pursuits to be suspended.

(Note: There certainly is no necessity for a sabbatical year followed by a year of jubilee, to enable us to explain the "sign," as Hofmann supposes.)

It is very improbable in itself that the prophet should have included a circumstance connected with the calendar in his "sign;" and, moreover, according to the existing chronological data, the year 715 had been a sabbatical year (see Hitzig). It is rather presupposed, either that the land would be too thoroughly devastated and desolate for the fields to be cultivated and sown (Keil); or, as we can hardly imagine such an impossibility as this, if we picture to ourselves the existing situation and the kind of agriculture common in Palestine, that the Assyrian would carry out his expedition to Egypt in this particular year (713-12), and returning through Judah, would again prevent the sowing of the corn (Hitzig, Knobel). But in the third year, that is to say the year 712-11, freedom and peace would prevail again, and there would be nothing more to hinder the cultivation of the fields or vineyards. If this should be the course of events during the three years, it would be a sign to king Hezekiah that the fate of the Assyrian would be no other than that predicated. The year 712-11 would be the peremptory limit appointed him, and the year of deliverance.

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