Isaiah 38:14
Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
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(14) Like a crane . . .—The three birds—strictly, the “swift,” the “crane,” the “dove”—each with its special note of lamentation, represent, as it were, the cries of pain and the low suppressed wail of the sufferer. The three appear again together in Jeremiah 8:7.

Undertake for mei.e., as in Genesis 43:9; Genesis 44:32; Job 17:3, Be surety for me. The idea is that of Death, who, yet in another sense, is but the minister of Jehovah, as being the creditor pressing for immediate payment. The words involve (as Cheyne points out) something like an appeal to the judge, who is also the accuser, to be bail for the accused.

38:9-22 We have here Hezekiah's thanksgiving. It is well for us to remember the mercies we receive in sickness. Hezekiah records the condition he was in. He dwells upon this; I shall no more see the Lord. A good man wishes not to live for any other end than that he may serve God, and have communion with him. Our present residence is like that of a shepherd in his hut, a poor, mean, and cold lodging, and with a trust committed to our charge, as the shepherd has. Our days are compared to the weaver's shuttle, Job 7:6, passing and repassing very swiftly, every throw leaving a thread behind it; and when finished, the piece is cut off, taken out of the loom, and showed to our Master to be judged of. A good man, when his life is cut off, his cares and fatigues are cut off with it, and he rests from his labours. But our times are in God's hand; he has appointed what shall be the length of the piece. When sick, we are very apt to calculate our time, but are still at uncertainty. It should be more our care how we shall get safe to another world. And the more we taste of the loving-kindness of God, the more will our hearts love him, and live to him. It was in love to our poor perishing souls that Christ delivered them. The pardon does not make the sin not to have been sin, but not to be punished as it deserves. It is pleasant to think of our recoveries from sickness, when we see them flowing from the pardon of sin. Hezekiah's opportunity to glorify God in this world, he made the business, and pleasure, and end of life. Being recovered, he resolves to abound in praising and serving God. God's promises are not to do away, but to quicken and encourage the use of means. Life and health are given that we may glorify God and do good.Like a crane - The word used here (סוּס sûs) usually denotes a horse. The rabbis render it here 'a crane.' Gesenius translates it 'a swallow;' and in his Lexicon interprets the word which is translated 'a swallow' (עגוּר 'āgûr) to mean "circling," making gyrations; and the whole phrase, 'as the circling swallow.' The Syriac renders this, 'As the chattering swallow.' The Vulgate, 'As the young of the swallow.' The Septuagint simply reads: 'As the swallow.' That two birds are intended here, or that some fowl is denoted by the word עגוּר 'āgûr, is manifest from Jeremiah 8:7, where it is mentioned as distinct from the סוּס sûs (the crane) ועגוּר וסוּס vesûs ve‛āgûr. On the meaning of the words Bochart may be consulted (Hieroz. i. 2. p. 602). It is probable that the swallow and the crane are intended. The swallow is well known, and is remarkable for its twittering. The crane is also a well-known bird with long limbs made to go in the water. Its noise may be expressive of grief.

So did I chatter - Peep, or twitter (see the note at Isaiah 8:19). The idea here is doubtless that of pain that was expressed in sounds resembling that made by birds - a broken, unmeaning unintelligible sighing; or quick breathing, and moaning.

I did mourn as a dove - The dove, from its plaintive sound, is an emblem of grief. It is so used in Isaiah 59:11. The idea is that of the lonely or solitary dove that is lamenting or mourning for its companion:

'Just as the lonely dove laments its mate.'

Mine eyes fail - The word used here (דלוּ dâllû) means properly to hang down, to swing like the branches of the willow; then to be languid, feeble, weak. Applied to the eye, it means that it languishes and becomes weak.

With looking upward - To God, for relief and comfort. He had looked so long and so intensely toward heaven for aid, that his eyes became weak and feeble.

O Lord, I am oppressed - This was his language in his affliction. He was so oppressed and borne down, that he cried to God for relief.

Undertake for me - Margin, 'Ease me.' The word (ערב ‛ârab) more properly means, to become surety for him. See it explained in the the note at Isaiah 36:8. Here it means, be surety for my life; give assurance that I shall be restored; take me under thy protection (see Psalm 119:122): 'Be surety for thy servant for good.'

14. Rather, "Like a swallow, or a crane" (from a root; "to disturb the water," a bird frequenting the water) [Maurer], (Jer 8:7).

chatter—twitter: broken sounds expressive of pain.

dove—called by the Arabs the daughter of mourning, from its plaintive note (Isa 59:11).

looking upward—to God for relief.

undertake for—literally, "be surety for" me; assure me that I shall be restored (Ps 119:122).

Like a crane or a swallow; or, a crane and a swallow; the conjunction and being here, as it is Habakkuk 3:11, and elsewhere, understood, as is manifest from Jeremiah 8:7, where it is expressed with these very words.

So did I chatter; my complaint and cry was like to the noise of a swallow, quick and frequent; and like that of a crane, loud and frightful. And this very comparison is used of mourners, not only in Scripture, but in other authors; concerning which the learned reader may consult my Latin Synopsis.

I did mourn as a dove; whose mournful tone is observed Isaiah 59:11 Ezekiel 7:16, and elsewhere.

Mine eyes fail with looking upward; whilst I lift up mine eyes and heart to God for relief, but in vain.

I am oppressed by my disease, which like a serjeant hath seized upon me, and is haling me to the prison of the grave.

Undertake for me; stop the execution, and rescue me out of his hands.

Like a crane, or a swallow, so did I chatter,.... Rather, "like a crane and a swallow", like both; sometimes loud and clamorous, like a crane (o), when the pain was very acute and grievous; and sometimes very low, through weakness of body, like the twittering of a swallow; or the moan he made under his affliction was like the mournful voices of these birds at certain times. Some think he refers to his prayers, which were quick and short, and expressed not with articulate words, but in groans and cries; at least were not regular and orderly, but interrupted, and scarce intelligible, like the chattering of the birds mentioned:

I did mourn as a dove; silently and patiently, within himself, for his sins and transgressions; and because of his afflictions, the fruit of them:

mine eyes fail with looking upwards; or, "on high"; or, as the Septuagint and Arabic versions express it, "to the height of heaven"; to the Lord there, whose Shechinah, as the Targum, is in the highest heavens: in his distress he looked up to heaven for help, but none came; he looked and waited till his eyes were weak with looking, and he could look no longer; both his eyes and his heart failed him, and he despaired of relief; and the prayer he put up was as follows:

O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me; or, "it oppresseth me (p)"; that is, the disease; it lay so heavy upon him, it bore him down with the weight of it, he could not stand up under it; it had seized him, and crushed him; it held him fast, and he could not get clear of it; and therefore entreats the Lord to "undertake" for him, to be his surety for good, as in Psalm 119:122, he represents his disease as a bailiff that had arrested him, and was carrying him to the prison of the grave; and therefore prays that the Lord would bail him, or rescue him out of his hands, that he might not go down to the gates of the grave. So souls oppressed with the guilt of sin, and having fearful apprehensions of divine justice, should apply to Christ their surety, and take refuge in his undertakings, where only peace and safety are to be enjoyed. So Gussetius renders the words, "I have unrighteousness, be surety for me" (q); and takes them to be a confession of Hezekiah, acknowledging himself guilty of unrighteousness, praying and looking to Christ the Son of God, and to his suretyship engagements, who, though not yet come to fulfil them, certainly would.

(o) So it is said in the Talmud, "Resh-Lakish cried like a crane", T. Bab. Kiddushin, Colossians 42. 1.((p) "Opprimit me, sub.infirmitas, vel morbus", Munster. (q) "njustitia est mihi hoc est, habeo injustitiam, reus suro injustitia, sponde pro me", Ebr. Comment, p. 654.

Like a crane or a swallow, so I {m} chattered: I mourned as a dove: my eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.

(m) I was so oppressed with sorrow, that I was not able to utter my words, but only to groan and sigh.

14. Like a crane or a swallow] Rather, as R.V., Like a swallow or a crane. Both words occur again only in Jeremiah 8:7. The want of a copula in Heb., and the unsuitability of the verb “chirp” (E.V. “chatter”) to the note of the crane suggests that the latter may have been imported into the text from the passage in Jeremiah. It is wanting in the LXX.

I did mourn as a dove] Cf. ch. Isaiah 59:11; Ezekiel 7:16; Nahum 2:7.

with looking upward] lit. toward the height, where Jehovah dwells.

undertake for me] become surety for me (Job 17:3). The image is that of a debtor who is being committed to prison.

Verse 14. - Like a crane or a swallow. The sus, here translated "crane," is probably "the swift," which has a loud, shrill note. The, agur is, perhaps, "the crane;" but this is very uncertain. The two words occur as the names of birds only here and in Jeremiah 8:7. So did I chatter; rather, so did I scream (Cheyne). I did mourn; rather, I did moan. Mine eyes fail with looking upward; rather, mine eyes are weak to look upward; i.e. I have scarcely the courage or the strength to look to Jehovah; yet still I do look to him falteringly, and make my appeal: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me (comp. Job 17:3); literally, be Surety for me. "The image," as Mr. Cheyne says, "is that of a debtor, who is being dragged to prison" at the suit of an exacting creditor, and for whom there is but one hope of relief; viz. if he can obtain a sufficient surety. Hezekiah calls on God to be the Surety; but God is the Creditor! Still, there is an appeal from God's justice to God's mercy - from Jehovah who punishes to Jehovah who forgives sin; and this appeal Hezekiah seems to intend to make when he beseeches God to "undertake for him." Isaiah 38:14In strophe 2 the retrospective glance is continued. His sufferings increased to such an extent, that there was nothing left in his power but a whining moan - a languid look for help.

I waited patiently till the morning; like the lion,

So He broke in pieces all my bones:

From day to night Thou makest it all over with me.

Like a swallow, a crane, so I chirped;

I cooed like the dove;

Mine eyes pined for the height.

O Lord, men assault me! Be bail for me."

The meaning of shivvithi may be seen from Psalm 131:2, in accordance with which an Arabic translator has rendered the passage, "I smoothed, i.e., quieted (sâweitu) my soul, notwithstanding the sickness, all night, until the morning." But the morning brought no improvement; the violence of the pain, crushing him like a lion, forced from him again and again the mournful cry, that he must die before the day had passed, and should not live to see another. The Masora here has a remark, which is of importance, as bearing upon Psalm 22:17, viz., that כּארי occurs twice, and לישׁני בתרי with two different meanings. The meaning of עגוּר סוּס is determined by Jeremiah 8:7, from which it is evident that עגּור is not an attribute of סּוס here, in the sense of "chirping mournfully," or "making a circle in its flight," but is the name of a particular bird, namely the crane. For although the Targum and Syriac both seem to render סוס in that passage (keri סיס, which is the chethib here, according to the reading of Orientals) by כּוּרכּיא) (a crane, Arab. Kurki), and עגוּר, by סנוּניתא) (the ordinary name of the swallow, which Haji Gaon explains by the Arabic chuttaf), yet the relation is really the reverse: sūs (sı̄s) is the swallow, and ‛âgūr the crane. Hence Rashi, on b. Kiddusin 44a ("then cried Res Lakis like a crane"), gives âg, Fr. grue, as the rendering of כרוכי; whereas Parchon (s.verse ‛âgūr), confounds the crane with the hoarsely croaking stork (ciconia alba). The verb 'ătsaphtsēph answers very well not only to the flebile murmur of the swallow (into which the penitential Progne was changed, according to the Grecian myth), but also to the shrill shriek of the crane, which is caused by the extraordinary elongation of the windpipe, and is onomatopoetically expressed in its name ‛âgūr.

(Note: The call of the parent cranes, according to Naumann (Vgel Deutschlands, ix. 364), is a rattling kruh (gruh), which is uncommonly violent when close, and has a trumpet-like sound, which makes it audible at a very great distance. With the younger cranes it has a somewhat higher tone, which often passes, so to speak, into a falsetto.)

Tsiphtsēph, like τρίζειν, is applied to every kind of shrill, penetrating, inarticulate sound. The ordinary meaning of dallū, to hang long and loose, has here passed over into that of pining (syn. kâlâh). The name of God in Isaiah 38:14 is Adonai, not Jehovah, being one of the 134 ודּין, i.e., words which are really written Adonai, and not merely to be read so.

(Note: Vid., Br, Psalterium, p. 133.)

It is impossible to take עשׁקה־לּי as an imperative. The pointing, according to which we are to read ‛ashqa, admits this (compare shâmrâh in Psalm 86:2; Psalm 119:167; and on the other hand, zochrālli, in Nehemiah 5:19, etc.);

(Note: Vid., Br, Thorath Emeth, pp. 22, 23.)


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