Isaiah 42:15
I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.
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(15) I will make waste mountains . . .—The whole description is symbolic, and points to the subjugation of the heathen nations, the “rivers” and “pools” probably representing the kingdoms of the Tigris and Euphrates (Isaiah 8:7). All this seems a purely destructive work, but through it all mercy and truth are working, and a way is being opened for the return of Israel, in painting which, as elsewhere, the literal melts into the spiritual, as in a dissolving view. (See Note on Isaiah 40:4.) “These things” include the whole work of judgment and of mercy.

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 will make waste mountains - This verse denotes the utter desolation which God would bring upon his foes in his anger. The meaning of this part of the verse is, that he would spread desolation over the hills and mountains that were well watered and laid out in gardens and orchards. It was common to plant vineyards on the sides of hills and mountains; and indeed most of the mountains of Palestine and adjacent regions were cultivated nearly to the top. They were favorable to the culture of the vine and the olive; and by making terraces, the greater portion of the hills were thus rescued for purposes of agriculture. Yet an enemy or warrior marching through a land would seek to spread desolation through all its cultivated parts, and lay waste all its fields. God, therefore, represents himself as a conqueror, laying waste the cultivated portions of the country of his foes.

And dry up all their herbs - He would destroy all the grain and fruits on which they were depending for support.

And I will make the rivers islands - Or rather, dry land, or deserts. I will, in the heat of my anger, dry up the streams, so that the bottoms of those streams shall be dry land. The word rendered here 'islands,' from אי 'ı̂y, properly denotes dry land, habitable ground, as opposed to water, the sea, rivers, etc., and the signification 'islands' is a secondary signification.

And I will dry up the pools - The pools on which they have been dependent for water for their flocks and herds. The sense of the whole passage is, I will bring to desolation those who worship idols, and the idols themselves. I will produce an entire change among them, as great as if I were to spread desolation over their cultivated hills, and to dry up all their streams. The reference is probably to the great changes which God would make in the pagan world. All that flourished on Pagan ground; all that was nurtured by idolatry; all their temples, fanes, altars, shrines, should be overturned and demolished; and in all these things great and permanent changes would be produced. The time would have come when God could no longer bear with the growing abominations of the pagan nations, and when he would go forth as a conqueror to subdue all to himself.

15. I will destroy all My foes.

mountains—in Palestine usually planted with vines and olives in terraces, up to their tops.

islands—rather, "dry lands." God will destroy His foes, the heathen, and their idols, and "dry up" the fountains of their oracles, their doctrines and institutions, the symbol of which is water, and their schools which promoted idolatry [Vitringa].

I will make waste mountains and hills; not dry and barren ones, for these were waste already, but such as are clothed with grass and herbs, as the following words imply; which is to be understood metaphorically, of God’s destroying his most lofty and flourishing enemies, who are oft compared in Scripture unto mountains and hills.

I will dry up the pools; I will remove all impediments out of the way; which is expressed in the prophetical dialect, by drying up Euphrates, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared, Revelation 16:12. He seems to allude to that which God did in drying up first the Red Sea, and then Jordan, to give his people passage into Canaan. And this exposition is confirmed by the following verse. I will make waste mountains and hills,.... Kingdoms, greater and lesser; kings and governors, as Jarchi interprets it; and so Kimchi understands it of the kings of the nations; by them are meant the emperors of Rome, and their governors under them, that set themselves against Christ and his Gospel, but were overcome by him; these mountains and hills became a plain before him: "every mountain and island were moved out of their places, and the kings of the earth, and the great men, &c. hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains, and called upon them to fall on them, and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb", Revelation 6:14,

and dry up all their herbs; the common people, and common soldiers that were with them, and on their side; comparable, for smallness, weakness, and number, to the grass of the mountains and hills:

and I will make the rivers islands, and dry up the pools; extirpate all the remains of idolatry, rivers and fountains being sacred with the Heathens, as mountains and hills were places where sacrifices were offered to idols. Unless by it rather should be meant, that the Lord would remove all impediments out of the way of his people, or which were obstacles of their conversion; just as he dried up the waters of the Red sea and Jordan, to make way for the people of Israel; to which the allusion may be, and which agrees with the following words.

I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.
15. Jehovah’s breath of anger will make the fairest and best watered regions an arid waste. Cf. ch. Isaiah 40:7; Isaiah 40:24, and note the contrasted image in Isaiah 41:18 f. For herbs, read herbage. The word islands is used in a peculiar sense, of dry land as opposed to water.Verse 15. - I will make waste mountains and hills. The result of God's "stirring up his jealousy," and giving a free vent to his feelings, will be the destruction of the great and mighty ones of the earth (comp. Isaiah 2:14). These are probably, in this place, the Babylonian kings and nobles. Dry up all their herbs; i.e. turn Babylonia, temporarily, into a desert. Make the rivers islands, and dry up the pools. Invert the established order of things - turn the rivers into dry land, and empty the reservoirs. There is, perhaps, some allusion to those dealings with the river-beds, which the Greek historians ascribe to Cyrus (Herod., 1:189, 191; Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 7:5, § 10), and which are not disproved by the fact that the one native account of the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, which has come down to us, makes no mention of them. First the overthrow of idolatry, then the restoration of Israel and conversion of the Gentiles: this is the double work of Jehovah's zeal which is already in progress. "The first, behold, is come to pass, and new things am I proclaiming; before it springs up, I let you hear it." The "first" is the rise of Cyrus, and the agitation of the nations which it occasioned - events which not only formed the starting-point of the prophecy in these addresses, whether the captivity was the prophet's historical or ideal standpoint, but which had no less force in themselves, as the connection between the first and second halves of the v. before us imply, as events both foreknown and distinctly foretold by Jehovah. The "new things" which Jehovah now foretells before their visible development (Isaiah 43:19), are the restoration of Israel, for which the defeat of their oppressors prepares the say, and the conversion of the heathen, to which an impulse is given by the fact that God thus glorifies Himself in His people.
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