It is he that sits on the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The circle of the earth—i.e., the vault of heaven over-arching the earth (Job 22:14; Proverbs 8:27).
As grasshoppers.—The word indicates some insect of the locust tribe. The comparison may have been suggested by Numbers 13:33.
As a curtain . . . as a tent.—The words indicate a clearer perception of space than the older Hebrew word for the “firmament” of Genesis 1:7. The visible heavens are thought of as a thin, filmy veil of gauze, the curtains of the tent of God.Isaiah 40:21, 'Have ye not known him sitting on the circle of the earth?' or with Isaiah 40:18, 'What likeness will ye compare to him that sitteth on the circle of the earth?' In either case the phrase is designed to show the majesty and glory of God. The word 'sitteth' refers to God as a sovereign or monarch, making the circle of the earth his throne.
The circle of the earth - Or rather, "above" (על ‛al) the circle of the earth. The word rendered 'circle' (חוּג chûg) denotes "a circle, sphere, or arch"; and is applied to the arch or vault of the heavens, in Proverbs 8:27; Job 22:14. The phrase 'circle,' or 'circuit of the earth,' here seems to be used in the same sense as the phrase orbis terrarum by the Latins; not as denoting a sphere, or not as implying that the earth was a globe, but that it was an extended plain surrounded by oceans and mighty waters. The globular form of the earth was then unknown; and the idea is, that God sat above this extended circuit, or circle; and that the vast earth was beneath his feet.
And the inhabitants thereof are like grasshoppers - Or rather, like locusts, for so the Hebrew word properly means. This is designed to show that the inhabitants of the earth, numerous and mighty as they are, are as nothing compared with God. The idea is that God is so exalted, that, as he looks down from that elevated station, all the inhabitants of the world appear to him as locusts - a busy, agirated, moving, impatient multitude, spread over the vast circle of the earth beneath him - as locusts spread in almost interminable bands over the plains in the East. What a striking illustration of the insignificance of man as he is viewed from the heavens! What an impressive description of the nothingness of his mighty plans, and of the vanity of his mightiest works!
That stretcheth out the heavens - Referring to the firmament above, as that which seems to be stretched out, or expanded over our heads. The heavens above are often thus compared to an expanse - either solid Genesis 1:7, or to a curtain, or tent (compare the note at Isaiah 34:4).
As a curtain - The word used here (דק doq) denotes properly fineness, thinness; and then a fine or thin cloth, or curtain. Here it means a thin canopy that is stretched over us. The same expression occurs in Psalm 104:2 (compare Job 9:8; Isaiah 44:24). Probably the reference here is to the veil, curtain, or awning which the Orientals are accustomed to draw over the court in their houses. Their houses are constructed with an open court in the center, with the rooms ranged round it. In that court or open square there are usually fountains, if the situation is so that they can be constructed; and they are cool and refreshing places for the family to sit in the heat of the summer. In hot or rainy weather, a curtain or awning is drawn over this area. According to the imago of the prophet here, the heavens are spread out over our heads as such an awning.
And spreadeth them out as a tent - As a tent that is made for a habitation. Perhaps the idea is, that the heavens are extended like a tent in order to furnish a dwelling-place for God. Thus the Chaldee renders it. If so, it proves that the universe, so vast, was suited up to be the dwelling-place of the High and Holy One, and is a most impressive representation of his immensity.
circle—applicable to the globular form of the earth, above which, and the vault of sky around it, He sits. For "upon" translate "above."
as grasshoppers—or locusts in His sight (Nu 13:33), as He looks down from on high (Ps 33:13, 14; 113:4-6).
curtain—referring to the awning which the Orientals draw over the open court in the center of their houses as a shelter in rain or hot weather.That sitteth, as a judge or governor upon his throne,
upon the circle of the earth; or, above the circle &c.; far above this round earth, even in the highest heavens; from whence he looketh down upon the earth, where men appear to him like grasshoppers. He alludes to one that looks down upon the earth below him from some high place. As here we have the circle of the earth, so elsewhere we read of the circle of heaven, Job 22:14, and of the circle of the deep, or sea, Proverbs 8:27, because the form of the heaven, and earth, and sea is circular and round, as is evident both from sense, and from the principles of philosophy.
As grasshoppers; small and contemptible in his sight. Compare Numbers 13:33.
Stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in, for the benefit of the earth and of mankind, that all parts might partake of its comfortable influences. See Poole "Job 9:8"; See Poole "Psalm 104:2".
and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; or "locusts (a)"; as one upon a very great eminence looking down beholds creatures as exceeding small and little; and if the Israelites were to the "anakim" or giants as grasshoppers, Numbers 13:33, much more must puny mortals be such in the sight of God, and in comparison of him; and this may denote, not only the minuteness of men, but what weak, impotent, useless, worthless, and short lived creatures men are:
that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain; alluding to the firmament or expanse made at the creation, and still continued; which is as a curtain to himself, which he draws around himself, he dwelling in the highest heavens, and in light inaccessible to mortals; and which he stretches out as a canopy around this earth, for the use of the inhabitants of it: or, "as a little thing"; or, as a little skin (b); and which he stretches out as easily as a man can stretch out that:
and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in it; for himself to dwell in, and so stretches out the heavens like curtains about him; tents being made of such, and often of skins.
(z) "super sphaeram", Pagninus; "globum", Montanus Vatablus; "super orbem telluris", Vitringa. (a) "ut locustae", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius, Vitringa; "tanquam locustae", Munster; "velut locustae", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (b) "velut tenue", Montanus; "tenuissimum", Vatablus; "pellem." Munster; so some in Vatablus; "pellculam", Gataker.It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22, 23. The majesty of the God who reveals Himself in Creation and Providence is described in interjectional participial clauses, the force of which should not be blunted by the superfluous “It is” of E.V.
upon (rather: above, R.V. marg.) the circle of the earth] i. e. the horizon, where earth and heaven meet (see Proverbs 8:27), “at the confines of light and darkness” (Job 26:10). The earth with its surrounding ocean is conceived as a flat disc, on which the arch of heaven comes down. The rendering “on the vault of the earth” (see Job 22:14, “vault of heaven,” the same word) is possible, though not so good.
and (so that) the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers] Comp. for the expression Numbers 13:33, and for the thought Psalm 113:5 f.
as a curtain] like gauze (lit. fine cloth).
a tent to dwell in] i.e. simply “a habitable tent.”Verse 22. - It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth; rather, above the vault of the earth; above the vault of sky which seems to arch over the earth. As grasshoppers; i.e. minute, scarcely visible (comp. Numbers 13:33). That stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain. So in Psalm 104:2, only that here the "curtain" is represented as one of thin gauze. The idea is common to Isaiah with Job (Job 9:8), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 10:12; Jeremiah 51:15), and Zechariah (Zechariah 12:1), and is a favourite one in these later chapters (comp. Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 51:13). As a tent (comp. Psalm 19:4, where God is said to have set in the heavens a "tabernacle" - 'ohel, the word used here - for the sun).
(Note: The derivation of דּי is still more obscure than that of δεῖ, which signifies, according to Benfey (Wurzelwrterbuch, ii. 205), "there needs;" according to Sonne, "it binds, scil. ἡ ἀνάγκη.")
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