Isaiah 42:14
I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.
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(14) I have long time holden my peace . . .—The change of person indicates that Jehovah is the speaker. “Long time,” literally, for an age, or an eternity. What is actually meant is the period of the exile, during which, till the advent of the deliverer, there had been no interposition on behalf of Israel. To the exiles this had seemed endless in its weariness. Now there were the travail-pangs of a new birth for the nation. (Comp. Matthew 24:8.) Was it strange that there should be the convulsions and catastrophes which are as the thunder-roaring of the voice of Jehovah?

I will destroy and devour.—Better, I pant and gasp. The verbs express strong emotion, the cries of the travailing woman rather than destructive acts.

42:13-17 The Lord will appear in his power and glory. He shall cry, in the preaching of his word. He shall cry aloud in the gospel woes, which must be preached with gospel blessings, to awaken a sleeping world. He shall conquer by the power of his Spirit. And those that contradict and blaspheme his gospel, he shall put to silence and shame; and that which hinders its progress shall be taken out of the way. To those who by nature were blind, God will show the way to life and happiness by Jesus Christ. They are weak in knowledge, but He will make darkness light. They are weak in duty, but their way shall be plain. Those whom God brings into the right way, he will guide in it. This passage is a prophecy, and is also applicable to every believer; for the Lord will never leave nor forsake them.I have long time holden my peace - This is the language of Yahweh, and it means that he had for a long time been patient and forbearing; but that now he would go forth as a warrior to overpower and destroy his foes.

I will destroy - The word used here (from נשׁם nâsham) denotes properly to breathe hard, to pant, as a woman in travail; and then to breathe hard in any manner. It here denotes the hard breathing which is indicative of anger, or a purpose to execute vengeance.

And devour at once - Margin, 'Swallow,' or 'Sup up.' The word שׁאף sha'aph means rather "to breathe hard, to pant, to blow, as in anger, or in the haste of pursuit." The idea in the verse is, that Yahweh had for a long time restrained his anger against his foes, and had refrained from executing vengeance on them. But now he would rouse his righteous indignation, and go forth to accomplish his purposes in their destruction. All this language is descriptive of a hero or warrior; and is, of course, not to be regarded as applicable literally to God. He often uses the language of people, and speaks of his purposes under the image of human passions. But we are not to infer that the language is literally applicable to him, nor is it to be interpreted too strictly. It means, in general, that God would go forth with a fixed and settled purpose to destroy his foes.

14. long time—namely, during the desolation of Israel (Isa 32:14).

holden my peace—(Compare Ps 50:21; Hab 1:2).

cry like a travailing woman, &c.—Like a woman in parturition, who, after having restrained her breathing for a time, at last, overcome with labor pain, lets out her voice with a panting sigh; so Jehovah will give full vent to His long pent-up wrath. Translate, instead of "destroy … devour"; I will at once breathe hard and pant, namely, giving loose to My wrath.

I have long time held my peace; I have for many ages suffered the devil and his servants, tyrants, and idolaters, and persecutors to prevail in the world, to afflict my people, and to hinder the entertainment of my doctrine and worship in the world.

Now will I cry like a travailing woman; now I will bring forth and accomplish that glorious work which I have long conceived in my mind.

I will destroy and devour at once; I will suddenly and utterly destroy the incorrigible enemies of my truth, and of my Son’s kingdom. He alludes to those wild beasts which open their mouths wide, and devour all their prey at one morsel, or at one time.

I have long time holden my peace,.... For many hundred years the Lord suffered the Gentile world to walk in their own ways, to worship their idols, and took no notice of them; he winked at and overlooked their times of ignorance, and did not bring down his vengeance upon them, nor stir up all his wrath; nor indeed did he send any among them, to reprove and convince them of their errors, and threaten them with "ruin", in case of their continuance in them:

I have been still, and refrained myself; had been silent, and said nothing against them in a providential way, but curbed and kept in his wrath and displeasure at their idolatry, as a woman in travail "holds in" (y) her breath as long as she can; to which the allusion is, as appears by what follows:

now will I cry like a travailing woman; when sharp pains are upon her, and just going to be delivered; and that so loud as to be heard all over the house. This may be taken in a good sense; the ministers of the Gospel travail in birth, and Christ in them, until he is formed in the hearts of men by regenerating and converting grace, Galatians 4:19 and in an ill sense; for swift and sudden destruction, which should come on his enemies, as travail on a woman with child. So the Targum,

"as pains on a woman with child, my judgment shall be revealed (or exposed) upon them.''

I will destroy and devour at once; all enemies that should oppose him in the spread of the Gospel, in the destruction of Paganism, and establishment of Christianity in the Roman empire, who are described in the next verse.

(y) "continebam me", Pagninus, Montanus; "continui me", Junius & Tremellius, Vitringa; "diu continui iram meam sicut halitum foeminae parturientis", Grotius.

I have long time held my peace; I have been still, and restrained myself: now will I cry like a {s} travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.

(s) I will haste to execute my vengeance, which I have so long deferred as a woman that desires to be delivered, when she is in labour.

14. I have long time holden my peace] Lit. “I have been silent from of old.” The period of silence perhaps goes back further than the Exile; it is the time during which Jehovah has permitted the oppression of His people by the heathen.

I have been still] Lit. “been dumb”; but “still” expresses the idea better; it is abstinence from action, not from speech, that is meant.

refrained myself] Cf. Genesis 43:31; Genesis 45:1.

now will I cry out] The verb does not recur in the O.T. In Aramaic it is used of the bleating of sheep. Here it denotes the convulsive utterance of uncontrollable emotion, “like a travailing woman.”

destroy and devour at once] Render with R.V. gasp and pant together; “together” uniting the three ideas.

14–17. Jehovah rouses Himself from His inactivity. The passage, which obviously continues the figure of Isaiah 42:13, is exceedingly bold in its anthropomorphism; it is Jehovah’s battle-song.

Verse 14. - I have long time holden my peace; literally, for an eternity. God's love for his people is forcibly expressed by his saying that he has felt it "an eternity" - though it was but some five or six decades - while he was waiting for his chastisement to have such due effect as would allow of his bringing it to an end, and showing them mercy. He has chafed, as it were, under the necessity of inaction, and has with difficulty refrained himself. Now he will refrain no longer. A travailing woman. A woman in her travail, after long endurance, at last gives free vent to her natural feelings, and utters loud cries (compare the preceding verse). I will destroy and devour at once (so Gesenius, Kay, and the ancient versions). But the bulk of modern commentators render, "I will pant and gasp," as does a travailing woman. Isaiah 42:14The period of punishment has now lasted sufficiently long; it is time for Jehovah to bring forth the salvation of His people. "I have been silent eternally long, was still, restrained myself; like a travailing woman, I now breathe again, snort and snuff together." The standpoint of these prophecies has the larger half of the captivity behind it. It has already lasted a long time, though only for several decades; but in the estimation of Jehovah, with His love to His people, this time of long-suffering towards their oppressors is already an "eternity" (see Isaiah 57:11; Isaiah 58:12; Isaiah 61:4; Isaiah 63:18-19; Isaiah 64:4, cf., Isaiah 64:10, Isaiah 64:11). He has kept silence, has still forcibly restrained Himself, just as Joseph is said to have done to prevent himself from breaking out into tears (Genesis 43:31). Love impelled Him to redeem His people; but justice was still obliged to proceed with punishment.

Three real futures now take the place of imperfects regulated by החשׁיתי. They are not to be understood as denoting the violent breathing and snorting of a hero, burning with rage and thirsting for battle (Knobel); nor is אשּׁם to be derived from שׁמם, as Hitzig supposes, through a mistaken comparison of Ezekiel 36:3, though the latter does not mean to lay waste, but to be waste (see Hitzig on Ezekiel 36:3). The true derivation is from נשׁם, related to נשׁף, נפשׁ, נשׁב. To the figure of a hero there is now added that of a travailing woman; פּעה is short breathing (with the glottis closed); נשׁם the snorting of violent inspiration and expiration; שׁאף the earnest longing for deliverance pressing upon the burden in the womb; and יחד expresses the combination of all these several strainings of the breath, which are associated with the so-called labour-pains. Some great thing, with which Jehovah has, as it were, long been pregnant, is now about to be born.

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