Isaiah 41:19
I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:
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(19) I will plant in the wilderness.—A picture as of the Paradise of God (Isaiah 51:3), with its groves of stately trees, completes the vision of the future. The two groups of four and three, making up the symbolic seven, may probably have a mystic meaning. The “shittah” is the acacia, the “oil tree” the wild olive, as distinguished from the cultivated (Romans 11:17), the “fir tree” is probably the cypress, the pine” stands for the plane, always—as in the opening of Plato’s Phœdrus, and the story of Xerxes in Herod. vii. 31,—the glory of Eastern scenery and the “box-tree” is perhaps the larch, or a variety of cedar. The “myrtle” does not appear elsewhere in the Old Testament till after the exile (Nehemiah 8:15; Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 1:10-11), but then it appears as if indigenous. It supplies the proper name Hadassah (Esther) in Esther 2:7.

41:10-20 God speaks with tenderness; Fear thou not, for I am with thee: not only within call, but present with thee. Art thou weak? I will strengthen thee. Art thou in want of friends? I will help thee in the time of need. Art thou ready to fall? I will uphold thee with that right hand which is full of righteousness, dealing forth rewards and punishments. There are those that strive with God's people, that seek their ruin. Let not God's people render evil for evil, but wait God's time. It is the worm Jacob; so little, so weak, so despised and trampled on by every body. God's people are as worms, in humble thoughts of themselves, and in their enemies' haughty thoughts of them; worms, but not vipers, not of the serpent's seed. Every part of God's word is calculated to humble man's pride, and to make him appear little in his own eyes. The Lord will help them, for he is their Redeemer. The Lord will make Jacob to become a threshing instrument. God will make him fit for use, new, and having sharp spikes. This has fulfilment in the triumphs of the gospel of Christ, and of all faithful followers of Christ, over the power of darkness. God has provided comforts to supply all their wants, and to answer all their prayers. Our way to heaven lies through the wilderness of this world. The soul of man is in want, and seeks for satisfaction; but becomes weary of seeking that in the world, which is not to be had in it. Yet they shall have a constant supply, where one would least expect it. I will open rivers of grace, rivers of living water, which Christ spake of the Spirit, Joh 7:38,39. When God sets up his church in the Gentile wilderness, there shall be a great change, as if thorns and briers were turned into cedars, and fir-trees, and myrtles. These blessings are kept for the poor in spirit, who long for Divine enlightening, pardon, and holiness. And God will render their barren souls fruitful in the grace of his Spirit, that all who behold may consider it.I will plant in the wilderness - The image in this verse is one that is frequent in Isaiah. It is designed to show that God would furnish for his people abundant consolations, and that he would furnish unanticipated sources of comfort, and would remove from them their anticipated trials and calamities. The image refers to the return of the exiles to their own land. That journey lay through Arabia Deserta - a vast desert - where they would naturally expect to meet with nothing but barren hills, naked rocks, parched plains, and burning sands. God says that he would bless them in the same manner as if in that desolate wilderness he should plant the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the fir-tree, and should make the whole distance a grove, where fountains would bubble along their way, and streams burst forth from the hills (compare the notes at Isaiah 32:15).

The cedar - The large and beautiful cedar, with lofty height, and extended branches such as grew on Lebanon (compare Isaiah 9:10, note; Isaiah 37:24, note).

The shittah-tree - This is the Hebrew name without change, שׁטה shı̂ṭṭâh. The Vulgate is spinam. The Septuagint renders it, Πύξον Puchon - 'The box.' Lowth renders it, 'The acacia.' Probably the acacia, or the spina AEgyptiaca - the Egyptian thorn of the ancients - is intended by it. It is a large tree, growing abundantly in Egypt and Arabia, and is the tree from which the gum-arabic is obtained. It is covered with large black thorns, and the wood is hard, and, when old, resembles ebony.

And the myrtle - The myrtle is a tree which rises with a shrubby upright stem, eight or ten feet high. Its branches form a dense, full head, closely garnished with oval lanceolate leaves. It has numerous small pale flowers from the axillas, singly on each footstalk (Encyc.) There are several species of the myrtle, and they are especially distinguished for their forming a dense and close top, and thus constituting a valuable tree for shade. It is a tree that grows with great rapidity.

And the oil-tree - Hebrew, 'Tree of oil' that is, producing oil. Doubtless the olive is intended here, from whose fruit oil was obtained in abundance. This was a common tree in Palestine, and was one of the most valued that grew.

The fir-tree - The word used here (ברושׁ berôsh) is commonly rendered, in our version, 'fir-tree' (Isaiah 60:13; Isaiah 55:13; Zechariah 11:2; Hosea 14:8-9; 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Kings 5:8, 1 Kings 5:10; 1 Kings 6:15, 1 Kings 6:34; Nahum 2:3, and in other places). Our translators understood it evidently as referring to the cedar. It is often joined, however, with the cedar (see the note at Isaiah 14:8; compare Isaiah 37:24; Zechariah 11:1-2), and evidently denotes another tree, probably of the same class. It is probable that the word usually denotes the cypress. There are various kinds of cypress. Some are evergreen, and some are deciduous, as the American white cedar. The wood of these trees is remarkable for its durability. Among the ancients, coffins were made of it, and the tree itself was an emblem of mourning. It is mentioned here because its extended branches and dense foliage would produce a grateful shade.

And the pine - The Septuagint renders this Λεύκην Leukēn, And - 'The white poplar.' The Vulgate renders it, 'The elm.' Gesenius supposes that a species of hard oak, holm or ilex, is intended. It is not easy, however, to determine what species of tree is meant.

The box-tree - Gesenius supposes that by this word is denoted some tall tree - a species of cedar growing on mount Lebanon that was distinguished by the smallness of its cones, and the upward direction of its branches. With us the word box denotes a shrub used for bordering flower-beds. But the word here denotes a tree - such as was sufficient to constitute a shade.

19. (Isa 32:15; 55:13).

shittah—rather, the "acacia," or Egyptian thorn, from which the gum Arabic is obtained [Lowth].

oil tree—the olive.

fir tree—rather, the "cypress": grateful by its shade.

pine—Gesenius translates, "the holm."

box tree—not the shrub used for bordering flower beds, but [Gesenius] a kind of cedar, remarkable for the smallness of its cones, and the upward direction of its branches.

Trees which are both useful and pleasant to the eye, and giving a good shadow to the traveller, which in those hot and parched countries was very comfortable. Thus much is evident and confessed. But what particular trees these Hebrew words signify seems to me improper to discourse here, because only the learned are capable of judging in this case, and they may consult my Latin Synopsis upon this and other places of Scripture where they are mentioned.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree,.... Where such trees had not used to grow, but in Lebanon, and such like places. The "shittah tree" is thought to be a kind of cedar; it is the same of which is the "shittim wood" mentioned in Exodus 25:5 and is so called by the Targum here:

and the myrtle, and the oil tree; about the former there is no difficulty, and one would think there should be none about the latter, and that the olive tree is meant; but Kimchi thinks that is not certain, and supposes the pine tree is meant; and observes that the olive tree is distinguished from this oil tree in Nehemiah 8:15, as indeed it is; and is by our translators there rendered the pine tree, which they take to be meant by another word in the next clause:

I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together; what we here render the "pine" the Targum interprets it of the "elm", and so the Vulgate Latin version: now by all these are figuratively meant converted persons in the Gentile world, in whom as great a change was wrought, as if, instead of briers and thorns, came up such trees as these; and who, by the grace of God, were made as goodly and beautiful as some of these trees were; as odorous and of as sweet a scent in their graces and duties as others; and as profitable and fruitful in grace and good works like others of them; and comparable to them, as being some of them evergreen, durable, and incorruptible; because of their perseverance in grace and holiness.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:
19. The desert itself shall be transformed into a grove of stately and beautiful trees. I will plant] Better: I will place. The shittah tree is the acacia. The myrtle is only mentioned in exilic and post-exilic writings; ch. Isaiah 55:13; Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 1:10 f.; Nehemiah 8:15.

the oil tree] Not the olive, but the oleaster or wild olive.

the fir tree] Rather: the cypress (R.V. marg.). With regard to the two last of the seven trees there is no sure tradition. The first (tidhar) is identified by different authorities with the fir, the elm and the plane. The other (tě’asshûr) is according to some the box-tree, according to others a species of cedar, probably the sherbîn-tree of the Arabs (cypressus oxycedrus). The names occur again only in ch. Isaiah 60:13; the last, however, is also disguised in a corrupt reading in Ezekiel 27:6.

Verse 19. - I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, etc. The "glory of Lebanon," the "excellency of Carmel and Sharon" (Isaiah 35:2), shall be given to the "wilderness," wherein Israel dwells. The trees named are the choicest of Syria and Palestine, viz. the cedar (erez). the great glory of Libanus; the acacia (shittah), abundant in the Jordan valley; the myrtle (hadas),whieh grew on the hills about Jerusalem (Nehemiah 8:15); the olive, cultivated over the whole country; the fir (berosh), or juniper. a product of Lebanon (2 Chronicles 2:8); the plane (tidhar), a tree far from uncommon in Coele-syria, sometimes growing to a great size; and the sherbin (teasshur), a sort of cedar, remarkable for the upward tendency of its branches. The list of names shows a writer familiar with the Palestinian region, but not familiar with Babylonia. Isaiah 41:19At the present time, indeed, the state of His people was a helpless one, but its cry for help was not in vain. "The poor and needy, who seek for water and there is none, their tongue faints for thirst. I Jehovah will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I open streams upon hills of the field, and springs in the midst of the valleys; I make the desert into a pond, and dry land into fountains of water. I give in the desert cedars, acacias, and myrtles, and oleasters; I set in the steppe cypresses, plane-trees, and sherbin-trees together, that they may see, and know, and lay to heart and understand all together, that the hand of Jehovah hath accomplished this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." Kimchi, Hitzig, and others refer these promises to the returning exiles; but there is also a description, without any restriction to the return home, of the miraculous change which would take place in the now comfortless and helpless condition of the exiles. The shephâyı̄m, i.e., bare, woodless hills rising up from the plain, Jeremiah 12:12, the beqâ‛ōth, or deep valleys, by the sides of which there rise precipitous mountains, and the 'erets tsiyyâh, the land of burning heat or drought (cf., Psalm 63:2), depict the homeless condition of Israel, as it wandered over bald heights and through waterless plains about a land with parched and gaping soil. For the characteristics of the object, which is placed before אענם, we may therefore compare such passages as Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 55:1. נשׁתּה is either a pausal form for נשׁתּה, and therefore the niphal of שׁתת (to set, become shallow, dry up), or a pausal form for נשׁתה, and therefore the kal of נשׁת with dagesh affectuosum, like נתנּוּ in Ezekiel 27:19 (Olshausen, 83, b). The form נשׁתה in Jeremiah 51:30 may just as well be derived from שׁתת (Ges. 67, Anm. 11) as from נשׁת, whereas נשּׁתוּ may certainly be taken as the niphal of שׁתת after the form נמּל, נחר (Ges. 67, Anm. 5), though it would be safer to refer it to a kal נשׁת, which seems to be also favoured by ינּתשׁוּ in Jeremiah 18:14 as a transposition of ינּשׁתוּ. The root נש, of which נשׁת would be a further expansion, really exhibits the meaning to dry up or thirst, in the Arabic nassa; whereas the verbs נוּשׁ, אנשׁ, נסס (Isaiah 10:18), נשׁה, Syr. nas', nos', Arab. nâsa, nasnasa, with the primary meaning to slacken, lose their hold, and נשׁא, נשׁה, נסע, to deceive, derange, and advance, form separate families. Just when they are thus on the point of pining away, they receive an answer to their prayer: their God opens streams, i.e., causes streams to break forth on the hills of the field, and springs in the midst of the valleys. The desert is transformed into a lake, and the steppe of burning sand into fountains of water. What was predicted in Isaiah 35:6-7 is echoed again here - a figurative representation of the manifold fulness of refreshing, consolation, and marvellous help which was to burst all at once upon those who were apparently forsaken of God. What is depicted in Isaiah 41:19, Isaiah 41:20, is the effect of these. It is not merely a scanty vegetation that springs up, but a corresponding manifold fulness of stately, fragrant, and shady trees; so that the steppe, where neither foot nor eye could find a resting-place, is changed, as by a stroke of magic, into a large, dense, well-watered forest, and shines with sevenfold glory - an image of the many-sided manifestations of divine grace which are experienced by those who are comforted now. Isaiah is especially fond of such figures as these (vid., Isaiah 5:7; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 27:6; Isaiah 37:31). There are seven (4 + 3) trees named; seven indicating the divine character of this manifold development (Psychol. p. 188). 'Erez is the generic name for the cedar; shittâh, the acacia, the Egyptian spina (ἄκανθα), Copt. shont; hadas, the myrtle, ‛ēts shemen, the wild olive, as distinguished from zayith (ἡ ἀγριέλαιος, opposed to ἡ ἐλαία in Romans 11:17); berōsh, the cypress, at any rate more especially this; tidhâr we have rendered the "plane-tree," after Saad.; and te'asshūr the "sherbin" (a kind of cedar), after Saad. and Syr. The crowded synonyms indicating sensual and spiritual perception in Isaiah 41:20 (ישׂימוּ, sc. לבּם, Isaiah 41:22) are meant to express as strongly as possible the irresistible character of the impression. They will be quite unable to regard all this as accidental or self-produced, or as anything but the production of the power and grace of their God.
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