Isaiah 40:24
Yes, they shall not be planted; yes, they shall not be sown: yes, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow on them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
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(24) They shall not be planted . . .—Better, Hardly are they planted, hardly are they sown. Such are empires before the eternity of Jehovah: so soon withered that we cannot say that they were ever really planted (Psalm 129:6).

40:18-26 Whatever we esteem or love, fear or hope in, more than God, that creature we make equal with God, though we do not make images or worship them. He that is so poor, that he has scarcely a sacrifice to offer, yet will not be without a god of his own. They spared no cost upon their idols; we grudge what is spent in the service of our God. To prove the greatness of God, the prophet appeals to all ages and nations. Those who are ignorant of this, are willingly ignorant. God has the command of all creatures, and of all created things. The prophet directs us to use our reason as well as our senses; to consider who created the hosts of heaven, and to pay our homage to Him. Not one fails to fulfil his will. And let us not forget, that He spake all the promises, and engaged to perform them.Yea, they shall not be planted - The kings and rulers - especially they who oppose God in the execution of his purposes. The idea in this verse is, that their name and family should become extinct in the same way as a tree does from which no shoot starts up. Although they were great and mighty, like the tree that sends out far-spreading branches, and strikes its roots deep, yet God would so utterly destroy them that they should have no posterity, and their family become extinct. Princes and kings are often compared to lofty and majestic trees of the forest (compare Psalm 37:35; Daniel 4:7 ff) Vitringa supposes that wicked rulers are particularly intended here, and that the idea is, that the wicked princes that persecuted his people should be entirely extinct on the earth. He refers particularly to Pharaoh, Antiochus Epiphanes, Nero, Domitian, Decius, Gallus, Galerius, Maxenus, Maximus, and some others, as instances of this kind, whose families soon became extinct. It may be remarked, in general, that the families of monarchs and princes become extinct usually much sooner than others. The fact may be owing in part to the usual luxury and vice in the families of the great, and in part to the direct arrangements of God, by which he designs that power shall not be forever perpetuated in one family, or line. The general idea in the passage is, that earthly princes and rulers are as nothing When compared with God, and that he can easily destroy their families and their name. But there is no improbability in the supposition of Vitringa, that the prophet refers particularly to the enemies of God and his cause, and that he intends specifically to affirm that none of these enemies could prevent or embarrass the execution of his purposes - since with infinite ease he could entirely destroy their name.

They shall not be sown - The same idea under another figure. The former referred to princes under the image of a tree; this refers to them under the image of grain that is sown. The idea is, that their family and name should be annihilated, and should not spring up in a future generation. The same image occurs in Nahum 1:14, in respect to the king of Assyria: 'The Lord hath given commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown;' that is, that thy name and family should become entirely extinct.

Yea, their stock - Their stem - referring to the stump or stock of a tree. When a tree is cut down, the roots often still live, and send up shoots, or suckers, that grow into trees. Posterity is often, in the Scriptures, compared to such suckers or shoots from old and decayed trees (see the notes at Isaiah 11:1). The meaning here is, that as when a tree falls and dies without sending up any shoots, so princes should die. They should have no descendants; no one of their family should sit on their thrones.

Shall blow upon them - As God sends a tempest upon the forest and uproots the loftiest trees, so he will sweep away the families of princes. Or rather, perhaps, the idea here is, that God sends a strong and burning east wind, and withers up everything before it (see this wind described in the notes at Isaiah 37:26).

And they shall wither - Trees, and shrubs, and plants are dried up before that poisonous and fiery wind - the simoom - and so it would be with the princes before the blast of Yahweh.

And the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble - This, in its literal signification, means that the whirlwind bears away the trees of the forest, and with the same ease God would sweep away the families of the kings and princes that opposed him and oppressed his people. It may illustrate this to observe, that the effects of whirlwinds in the East are often much more violent than they are with us, and that they often bear away to a great distance the branches of trees, and even the trees themselves. The following description of a whirlwind observed by Mr. Bruce, may serve to illustrate this passage, as well as the passage in Psalm 83:13 :

O my God, make them like a wheel;

As the stubble before the wind,

referring to the rotary action of the whirlwind, which often impels straw like a wheel set in rapid motion. 'Mr. Bruce, in his journey through the desert of Senaar, had the singular felicity to contemplate this wonderful phenomenon in all its terrific majesty, without injury, although with considerable danger and alarm. In that vast expanse of desert, from west and to northwest of him, he saw a number of prodigious pillars of sand at different distances, moving, at times, with great celerity, at others, stalking on with majestic slowness; at intervals he thought they were coming, in a very few minutes, to overwhelm him and his companion. Again, they would retreat so as to be almost out of sight, their tops reaching to the very clouds. There, the tops often separated from the bodies; and these, once disjoined, dispersed in the air, and appeared no more. Sometimes they were broken near the middle, as if struck with a large cannon-shot.

About noon, they began to advance with considerable swiftness upon them, the wind being very strong at north. Eleven of these awful visitors ranged alongside of them, about the distance of three miles. The greatest diameter of the largest appeared to him, at that distance, as if it would measure ten feet. They retired from them with a wind at southeast, leaving an impression upon the mind of our intrepid traveler, to which he could give no name, though he candidly admits that one ingredient in it was fear, with a considerable deal of wonder and astonishment. He declares it was in vain to think of flying; the swiftest horse, or fastest sailing ship, could be of no use to carry them out of this danger; and the full persuasion of this riveted him to the spot where he stood. Next day, they were gratified with a similar display of moving pillars, in form and disposition like those already described, only they seemed to be more in number and less in size.

They came, several times, in a direction close upon them; that is, according to Mr. Bruce's computation, within less than two miles. They became, immediately after sunrise, like a thick wood, and almost darkened the sun; his rays shining through them for near an hour, gave them an appearance of pillars of fire. At another time, they were terrified by an army (as it seemed) of these sand pillars, whose march was constantly south, a number of which seemed once to be coming directly upon them; and though they were little nearer than two miles, a considerable quantity of sand fell around them. On the 21st of November, about eight in the morning, he had a view of the desert to the westward, as before, and the sands had already begun to rise in immense twisted pillars, which darkened the heavens, and moved over the desert with more magnificence than ever. The sun, shining through the pillars, which were thicker, and contained more sand, apparently, than on any of the preceding days, seemed to give those nearest them an appearance as if spotted with stars of gold.' (Paxton)

24. they—the "princes and judges" (Isa 40:23) who oppose God's purposes and God's people. Often compared to tall trees (Ps 37:35; Da 4:10).

not … sown—the seed, that is, race shall become extinct (Na 1:14).

stock—not even shall any shoots spring up from the stump when the tree has been cut down: no descendants whatever (Job 14:7; see on [781]Isa 11:1).

and … also—so the Septuagint. But Maurer translates, "They are hardly (literally, 'not yet', as in 2Ki 20:4) planted (&c.) when He (God) blows upon them."

blow—The image is from the hot east wind (simoon) that "withers" vegetation.

whirlwind … stubble—(Ps 83:13), where, "like a wheel," refers to the rotatory action of the whirlwind on the stubble.

They, the princes and judges last mentioned,

shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: they shall take no root, as it follows; for planting and sowing are in order to taking root, and are necessary to it. They shall not continue and flourish, as they have vainly imagined; but shall be rooted up and perish, as is declared in the rest of the verse.

Blow upon them; blast them, as a vehement east wind doth plants. Yea, they shall not be planted,.... As trees are, like the cedars in Lebanon, though they may seem to be such; but be like the grass of the field, and herbs of the earth: or, "even they shall be", as if they were "not planted (c)", they shall not grow and flourish; or they shall be plucked up, and be no more; this is said of the princes and judges of the earth; nay,

they shall not be sown; as seed is, which springing up, brings forth fruit, but so it shall not be with them; or they shall be as if they had not been sown, no fruit being brought forth by them:

yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth; so as to continue and abide, but they shall soon vanish and disappear, as the most powerful princes and wisest judges do. The Targum is,

"although they multiply, although they increase, although their children become great in the earth:''

"and" or "yea",

he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither; as grass withers, when a severe wind blows upon it:

and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble; which is not able to stand before the force of it; and as unable are the greatest potentates on earth to stand before the tempest of divine wrath and vengeance; if God blows but upon them in anger, all their glory and grandeur, pomp and power, wither away like the flower of the field; and especially if he comes forth in all the fury of his wrath in a tempestuous way against them, they are no more able to stand before him that stubble before a violent storm: see Revelation 6:15. The Targum is,

"yet, even he will send his fury upon them; and his word shall take them away, as a whirlwind stubble.''

(c) "perinde ut non plantati", Calvin; and so the following clauses.

Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also {a} blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.

(a) So that his power appears in every place we turn our eyes.

24. Yea, they shall not be …] Render: Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock struck root in the earth, when he bloweth etc. (see R.V. marg.).

their stock] The same word as “stem” in ch. Isaiah 11:1, but in a different sense. see the note there.

25, 26 form the peroration of a passage of striking elevation. The writer makes a final appeal to the imagination of his audience by pointing to the nightly pageant of the starry hosts mustered at the command of Him who is Jehovah of Hosts.Verse 24. - They shall not be planted... shall not be sown... shall not take root. The verbs are all of them in the past tense. Translate, have not been planted,... sown, etc. The meaning is that princes and judges of the earth are not fixed in their places, have no firm root in the soil, are easily overturned. Even if the case were different, a breath from the Almighty would, as a matter of course, dry them up (see ver. 7) and blow them away. As stubble (comp. Isaiah 5:24; Psalm 83:13). The conclusion drawn from Isaiah 40:17, that Jehovah is therefore the matchless Being, shapes itself into a question, which is addressed not to idolaters, but to such of the Israelites as needed to be armed against the seductive power of idolatry, to which the majority of mankind had yielded. "And to whom can ye liken God, and what kind of image can ye place beside Him!" The ו before ואל is conclusive, as in Isaiah 28:26, and the futures are modi potent.: with what can ye bring into comparison (אל as in Isaiah 14:10) El, i.e., God, the one Being who is absolutely the Mighty? and what kind of demūth (i.e., divine, like Himself) can ye place by His side?
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