Isaiah 44:13
The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.
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(13) The carpenter.—The wooden idol comes next. First there is the rough measurement with the “rule;” then the artificer draws the outline of the figure in red chalk. “Plane” and “compasses” come in to make the form more definite. The human figure is complete; then there is the artist’s final touch to add the element of beauty; and so it is ready for the “house,” or temple.

44:9-20 Image-making is described, to expose the folly of idolaters. Though a man had used part of a log for fuel, he fell down before an image made of the remainder, praying it to deliver him. Man greatly dishonours God, when he represents him after the image of man. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, causing absurd reasonings in matters of religion. Whether men seek happiness in worldly things, or run into unbelief, superstition, or any false system, they feed on ashes. A heart deceived by pride, love of sin, and departure from God, turns men aside from his holy truth and worship. While the affections are depraved, a man holds fast the lie as his best treasure. Are our hearts set upon the wealth of the world and its pleasures? They will certainly prove a lie. If we trust to outward professions and doings, as if those would save us, we deceive ourselves. Self-suspicion is the first step towards self-deliverance. He that would deliver his soul, must question his conscience, Is there not a lie in my right hand?The carpenter - The axe is made Isaiah 44:12, and the carpenter now proceeds to the construction of the god.

Stretcheth out his rule - For the purpose of laying out his work, or measuring it. The word rendered here 'rule,' however (קו qâv), means properly "a line"; and should be so rendered here. The carpenter stretches out a line, but not a rule.

He marketh it out with a line - He marks out the shape; the length, and breadth, and thickness of the body, in the rough and unhewn piece of wood. He has an idea in his mind of the proper shape of a god, and he goes to work to make one of that form. The expression 'to mark out with a line,' is, however, not congruous. The word which is used here, and which is rendered 'line' (שׂרד s'ered) occurs nowhere else in the Bible. Lowth and Kimchi render it, 'Red ochre.' According to this the reference is to the chalk, red clay, or crayon, which a carpenter uses on a line to mark out his work. But according to Gesenius, the word means an awl, or a stylus, or engraver; with which the artist sketches the outlines of the figure to be sculptured. A carpenter always uses such an instrument in laying out and marking his work.

He fitteth it with planes - Or rather with chisels, or carving-tools, with which wooden images were carved. Planes are rather adapted to a smooth surface; carving is performed with chisels. The word is derived from קצע qâtsa‛, 'to cut off.' The Chaldee renders it, אזמל 'azemēl - 'A knife.' The Septuagint renders this, 'Framed it by rule, and glued the parts together.'

Marketh it out with the compass - From חוּג chûg, "to make a circle," to revolve, as compasses do. By a compass he accurately designates the parts, and marks out the symmetry of the form.

According to the beauty of a man - Perhaps there may be a little sarcasm here in the thought that a god should be made in the shape of a man. It was true, however, that the statues of the gods among the ancients were made after the most perfect conceptions of the human form. The statuary of the Greeks was of this description, and the images of Apollo, of Venus, and of Jupiter, have been celebrated everywhere as the most perfect representations of the bureau form.

That it may remain in the house - To dwell in a temple. Such statues were usually made to decorate a temple; or rather perhaps temples were reared to be dwelling places of the gods. It may be implied here, that the idol was of no use but to remain in a house. It could not hear, or save. It was like a useless piece of furniture, and had none of the attributes of God.

13. After the smith's work in preparing the instruments comes the carpenter's work in forming the idol.

rule—rather, "line" [Barnes].

with a line—rather, a "pencil," [Horsley]. Literally, "red ochre," which he uses to mark on the wood the outline of the figure [Lowth]. Or best, the stylus or graver, with which the incision of the outline is made [Gesenius].

planes—rather, "chisels" or "carving tools," for a plane would not answer for carving.

compass—from a Hebrew root, "to make a circle"; by it, symmetry of form is secured.

according to … beauty of a man—irony. The highest idea the heathen could form of a god was one of a form like their own. Jerome says, "The more handsome the statue the more august the god was thought." The incarnation of the Son of God condescends to this anthropomorphic feeling so natural to man, but in such a way as to raise man's thoughts up to the infinite God who "is a spirit."

that it may remain in … house—the only thing it was good for; it could not hear nor save (compare Wisdom 13:15).

He here speaks, either,

1. Of the same image, which is supposed to be made of wood, and then covered with some metal; or,

2. Of another sort of images made of wood, as the former might be made of iron. It is not material which way you understand it.

He marketh it with a line; he measureth and marketh that portion of wood by his rule and line of which the idol is to be made.

According to the beauty of a man; in the same comely shape and proportions which are in a living man, whom he designs to represent as exactly as is possible.

That it may remain, or sit, or dwell; which implies either,

1. That it cannot stir out of its place; or,

2. That when the image is made, it is set up and fixed in its appointed place.

In the house; either in the temple appointed for it; or in the dwelling-house of him that made it; that he and his family might more frequently give worship to it, and might receive protection from it, as idolaters vainly imagined.

The carpenter stretcheth out his rule,.... Or, the worker of trees (e); that works in wood, or makes images of wood; having cut down a tree, he stretches out his rule or line upon it, and takes the dimensions of it, and measures the length and the breadth of it, as much as is for his purpose to make a god of: and then

he maketh it out with a line; coloured with ochre, or chalk, which leaves a mark, by which he knows where to cut it, and fashion it to his mind:

and he fitteth it with planes; first with the rougher planes, which take off the knotty and more rugged parts; and then with a smoother plane, makes it even, and polishes it:

and he marketh it out with a compass; where its head and body, and legs and arms, and other parts must be:

and maketh it after the figure of a man; with all the parts and proportion of a man:

according to the beauty of a man; with the face and countenance of a man; with all the lineaments and just symmetry of a man; in the most comely and beautiful manner he is capable of, that it may be the more striking and pleasing to the worshippers of it. Jarchi's note is,

"this is a woman, who is the glory of her husband;''

and so the Targum,

"according to the praise of a woman;''

there being female deities, as Juno, Venus, Diana, and others:

that it may remain in the house (f); either in the temple built for it, whither its rotaries repair to the worship of it; or in the dwelling house, being one of the Lares or Penates, household gods: it may be, this is said by way of scorn and contempt; this god being made, is set up in the house, from whence it cannot stir nor move, to the help of any of its worshippers.

(e) "faber lignorum", Montanus; "artifex lignarius", V. L. Pagninus; "faber lignarius", Vitringa. (f) The note of Ben Melech is, "as it is the glory of a woman to abide in the house, and not go out of doors, so a graven image abides in the house.''

The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in {t} the house.

(t) To place it in some Temple.

13. The carpenter] lit., “the workman in wood.”

stretcheth out a line, (R.V.)] to mark off the dimensions of the future image on the block of wood. For line in the next clause read pencil (as R.V.); the word, like that for “planes” (which may mean “chisels” or any cutting implement), occurs only here.

fitteth] R.V. “shapeth”; lit. maketh.

that it may remain in the house] to dwell in a house; either a great temple, or a private shrine.

Verse 13. - The carpenter, etc. When the smith has done his part in the formation of tools, the carpenter is called into action. His proceedings are traced "extragressively." (Delitzsch). First, he is regarded as in possession of his block of wood. On this he proceeds to stretch out his rule, to obtain the idol's length and breadth. Then he marks out on the block a rough outline with red chalk (sered). After this he pares away the superfluous wood with planes, or chisels, and marks out the limbs more accurately with the compass, planing and measuring until he has brought the rough block into the figure of a man, and impressed on it something of the beauty of a man, so that it may seem worthy of remaining in the place where it is set up, whether temple or private house. But there is something necessarily anterior to all this. To obtain his block, the carpenter must first cut down a tree, or have one cut down for him (ver. 14); to obtain a tree, he (or some one for him) must have planted it; for the tree to have grown to a fitting size, the rain must have watered it. So the very existence of these wooden idols depends ultimately on whether it has rained or not - i.e., whether God has given his rain or withheld it. Isaiah 44:13The prophet now conducts us into the workshops. "The iron-smith has a chisel, and works with red-hot coals, and shapes it with hammers, and works it with his powerful arm. He gets hungry thereby, and his strength fails; if he drink no water, he becomes exhausted. The carpenter draws the line, marks it with the pencil, carries it out with planes, and makes a drawing of it with the compass, and carries it out like the figure of a man, like the beauty of a man, which may dwell in the house." The two words chârash barzel are connected together in the sense of faber ferrarius, as we may see from the expression chârash ‛ētsı̄m (the carpenter, faber lignarius), which follows in Isaiah 44:13. Chârash is the construct of chârâsh ( equals charrâsh), as in Exodus 28:11. The second kametz of this form of noun does indeed admit of contraction, but only to the extent of a full short vowel; consequently the construct of the plural is not חרשׁי, but חרשׁי (Isaiah 45:16, etc.). Hence Isaiah 44:12 describes how the smith constructs an idol of iron, Isaiah 44:13 how the carpenter makes one of wood. But the first clause, מעצד בּרזל חרשׁ, is enigmatical. In any case, מעצד is a smith's tool of some kind (from עצד, related to חצד). And consequently Gesenius, Umbreit, and others, adopt the rendering, "the smith an axe, that does he work ... ;" but the further account of the origin of an idol says nothing at all about this axe, which the smith supplies to the carpenter, that he may hew out an idol with it. Hitzig renders it, "The smith, a hatchet does he work, and forms it (viz., into an idol);" but what a roundabout way! first to make a hatchet and then make it into an idol, which would look very slim when made. Knobel translates it, "As for the cutting-smith, he works it;" but this guild of cutting-smiths certainly belongs to Utopia. The best way to render the sentence intelligible, would be to supply לו: "The smith has (uses) the ma‛ătsâd." But in all probability a word has dropped out; and the Septuagint rendering, ὅτι ὤξυνεν τέκτων σίδηρον σκεπάρνω εἰργάσατο κ.τ.λ, shows that the original reading of the text was מעצד ברזל חרס חדד, and that חדד got lost on account of its proximity to יחץ. The meaning therefore is, "The smith has sharpened, or sharpens (chiddēd, syn. shinnēn) the ma‛ătsâd," possibly the chisel, to cut the iron upon the anvil; and works with red-hot coals, making the iron red-hot by blowing the fire. The piece of iron which he cuts off is the future idol, and this he shapes with hammers (יצרהוּ the future of יצר). And what of the carpenter? He stretches the line upon the block of wood, to measure the length and breadth of the idol; he marks it upon the wood with red-stone (sered, rubrica, used by carpenters), and works it with planes (maqtsu‛ōth, a feminine form of מקצוע, from קצע, to cut off, pare off, plane; compare the Arabic mikta‛), and with the compasses (mechūgâh, the tool used, lâchūg, i.e. for making a circle) he draws the outline of it, that is to say, in order that the different parts of the body may be in right proportion; and he constructs it in such a manner that it acquires the shape of a man, the beautiful appearance of a man, to be set up like a human inmate in either a temple or private house. The piel תּאר (תּאר), from which comes yetāărēhū, is varied here (according to Isaiah's custom; cf., Isaiah 29:7; Isaiah 26:5) with the poelתּאר, which is to be understood as denoting the more exact configuration. The preterites indicate the work for which both smith and carpenter have made their preparations; the futures, the work in which they are engaged.
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