Isaiah 38:14
Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: my 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." On 2 Kings 20:9 - Even הלך is syntactically admissible in the sense of iveritne; see Genesis 21:7; Psalm 11:3; Job 12:9.

Isaiah 38:7The pledge desired. "(K. Then Isaiah said) and (K. om.) let this be the sign to thee on the part of Jehovah, that (אשׁר, K. כּי) Jehovah will perform this (K. the) word which He has spoken; Behold, I make the shadow retrace the steps, which it has gone down upon the sun-dial of Ahaz through the sun, ten steps backward. And the sun went back ten steps upon the dial, which it had gone down" (K. "Shall the shadow go forward [הלך, read הלך according to Job 40:2, or הילך] ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps? Then Yechizkiyahu said, It is easy for the shadow to go down ten steps; no, but the shadow shall go back ten steps. Then Isaiah the prophet cried to Jehovah, and turned back the shadow by the steps that it had gone down upon the sun-dial of Ahaz, ten steps backward"). "Steps of Ahaz" was the name given to a sun-dial erected by him. As ma‛ălâh may signify either one of a flight of steps or a degree (syn. madrigâh), we might suppose the reference to be to a dial-plate with a gnomon; but, in the first place, the expression points to an actual succession of steps, that is to say, to an obelisk upon a square or circular elevation ascended by steps, which threw the shadow of its highest point at noon upon the highest steps, and in the morning and evening upon the lowest either on the one side or the other, so that the obelisk itself served as a gnomon. It is in this sense that the Targum on 2 Kings 9:13 renders gerem hamma‛ălōth by derag shâ‛ayyâ', step (flight of steps) of the sun-dial; and the obelisk of Augustus, on the Field of Mars at Rome, was one of this kind, which served as a sun-dial. The going forward, going down, or declining of the shadow, and its going back, were regulated by the meridian line, and under certain circumstances the same might be said of a vertical dial, i.e., of a sun-dial with a vertical dial-plate; but it applies more strictly to a step-dial, i.e., to a sun-dial in which the degrees that measure definite periods of time are really gradus. The step-dial of Ahaz may have consisted of twenty steps or more, which measured the time of day by half-hours, or even quarters. If the sign was given an hour before sunset, the shadow, by going back ten steps of half-an-hour each, would return to the point at which it stood at twelve o'clock. But how was this effected? Certainly not by giving an opposite direction to the revolution of the earth upon its axis, which would have been followed by the most terrible convulsions over the entire globe; and in all probability not even by an apparently retrograde motion of the sun (in which case the miracle would be optical rather than cosmical); but as the intention was to give a sign that should serve as a pledge, and therefore had not need whatever to be supernatural, it may have been simply through a phenomenon of refraction, since all that was required was that the shadow which was down at the bottom in the afternoon should be carried upwards by a sudden and unexpected refraction. Hamma‛ălōth (the steps) in Isaiah 38:8 does not stand in a genitive relation to tsēl (the shadow), as the accents would make it appear, but is an accusative of measure, equivalent to בּמּעלות in the sum of the steps (2 Kings 20:11). To this accusative of measure there is appended the relative clause: quos (gradus) descendit (ירדה; צל being used as a feminine) in scala Ahasi per solem, i.e., through the onward motion of the sun. When it is stated that "the sun returned," this does not mean the sun in the heaven, but the sun upon the sun-dial, upon which the illuminated surface moved upwards as the shadow retreated; for when the shadow moved back, the sun moved back as well. The event is intended to be represented as a miracle; and a miracle it really was. The force of will proved itself to be a power superior to all natural law; the phenomenon followed upon the prophet's prayer as an extraordinary result of divine power, not effected through his astronomical learning, but simply through that faith which can move mountains, because it can set in motion the omnipotence of God.

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