Isaiah 47:14
Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) There shall not be a coal to warm at.—Better, it shall not be . . . The destroying flame shall be altogether other than the fire on the hearth, at which a man can sit and warm himself.

47:7-15 Let us beware of acting and speaking as Babylon did; of trusting in tyranny and oppression; of boasting as to our abilities, relying on ourselves, and ascribing success to our own prudence and wisdom; lest we partake of her plagues. Those in the height of prosperity, are apt to fancy themselves out of the reach of adversity. It is also common for sinners to think they shall be safe, because they think to be secret in wicked ways. But their security shall be their ruin. Let us draw from such passages as the foregoing, those lessons of humility and trust in God which they convey. If we believe the word of God, we may know how it will be with the righteous and the wicked to all eternity. We may learn how to escape the wrath to come, to glorify God, to have peace through life, hope in death, and everlasting happiness. Let us then stand aloof from all delusions.Behold, they shall be as stubble - They shall be no more able to resist the judgments which are coming upon the city, than dry stubble can resist the action of the fire. A similar figure is used in Isaiah 1:31 (see the notes at that verse). Compare also Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:30, where fire is a symbol of the devouring judgments of God.

They shall not deliver themselves - Margin, as Hebrew, 'Their souls.' The meaning is, that they would be unable to protect themselves from the calamities which would come upon them and the city.

There shall not be a coal to warm at - The meaning is, that they would be entirely consumed - so completely, that not even a coal or spark would be left, as when stubble, or a piece of wood, is entirely burned up. According to this interpretation, the sense is, that the judgments of God would come upon them and the city, so that entire destruction would ensue. Rosenmuller, however, Cocceius, and some others, suppose this should be rendered, 'there shall not remain a coal so that bread could be baked by it.' But the more common, and more correct interpretation, is that suggested above. Compare Gesenius and Rosenmuller on the place.

14. (Isa 29:6; 30:30).

not … a coal—Like stubble, they shall burn to a dead ash, without leaving a live coal or cinder (compare Isa 30:14), so utterly shall they be destroyed.

They shall not deliver themselves, and much less thee,

from the power of the flame; they shall be totally consumed, and all the comfort which thou didst expect from them shall utterly vanish.

Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them,.... That is, these astrologers and diviners shall be like stubble; weak as that, as the Targum; they shall be no more able to stand before the fire of divine wrath, or before the judgments of God, by the hands of the Medes and Persians, than stubble can stand before a consuming fire:

they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; from those dreadful calamities that shall come upon them like flames of fire; and if they cannot deliver themselves by their art and skill, how should they deliver others?

there shall not be a coal to warm, nor fire to sit before it; stubble, when burnt, leaves no coals to warm a man with; and though it gives a blaze for a short time, while burning, it is quickly out, and gives no light nor heat for a man to sit by, so that there is little or no profit by it; which signifies that there were no hope, or help, or comfort, to be expected from those sorts of persons.

Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal {m} to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.

(m) They will utterly perish, and no part of them remain.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. They cannot even save their own lives, much less the State. themselves] their (own) life.

there shall not be a coal &c.] Better: It is no (glowing) coal to warm oneself withal; no fire to sit before! i.e. no genial hearth for comfort, but an all-consuming fire! The sentence is prosaic and unnecessary, and might readily be sacrificed (with Duhm) to the exigencies of the strophe and the elegiac measure.

Verse 14. - Behold, they shall be as stubble (comp. Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 40:24; Isaiah 41:2). A favourite metaphor with Isaiah for extreme weakness and incapacity of resistance. In Isaiah 5:24 it is connected, as here, with fire. No doubt in Palestine, as elsewhere, an accidental fire from time to time caught hold of a stubble-field, and speedily reduced it to a mass of blackened ashes. The threat here is that God's wrath shall similarly sweep over Babylon. They shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame. Mr. Cheyne translates, with much spirit, "They cannot rescue their soul from the clutch of the flame." Like those who are caught in the midst of a fire in a prairie or jungle, they have no escape - the flame is on all sides - and they cannot but perish. There shall not be a coal to warm at; rather, it is not a charcoal-fire to warm one's self at. A return to the sarcastic tone of vers. 12, 13. The conflagration which spreads around is something more than a fire to warm one's self at - it is an awful widespread devastation. Isaiah 47:14ἀλμενιχακά in Plut., read Porph., viz., in the letter of Porphyrios to the Egyptian Anebo in Euseb. praep. iii. 4, init.: τάς τε εἰς τοὺς δεκανοὺς τομὰς καὶ τοὺς ὡροσκόποὺς καὶ τοὺς λεγομένους κραταιοὺς ἡγεμόνας, ὧν καὶ ὀνόματα ἐν τοῖς ἀλμενιχιακοῖς φέρεται; compare Jamblichos, de Mysteriis, viii. 4: τά τε ἑν τοῖς σαλμεσχινιακοῖς μέρος τι βραχύτατον περιέχει τῶν ̔Ερμαικῶν διατάξεων. This reading σαλμεσχινιακοῖς has been adopted by Parthey after two codices and the text in Salmasius, de annis clim. 605. But ἀλμενιχιακοῖς is favoured by the form Almanach (Hebr. אלמנק, see Steinschneider, Catal. Codd. Lugduno-Batav. p. 370), in which the word was afterwards adopted as the name of an astrological handbook or year-book. In Arabic the word appears to me to be equivalent to 'l-mnâch, the encampment (of the stars); but to all appearance it was originally an Egyptian word, and possibly the Coptic monk (old Egyptian mench), a form or thing formed, is hidden beneath it.

Isaiah 47:12Then follows the concluding strophe, which, like the first, announces to the imperial city in a triumphantly sarcastic tone its inevitable fate; whereas the intermediate strophes refer rather to the sins by which this fate has been brought upon it. "Come near, then, with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy witchcrafts, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth: perhaps thou canst profit, perhaps thou wilt inspire terror. Thou art wearied through the multitude of thy consultations; let the dissectors of the heavens come near, then, and save thee, the star-gazers, they who with every new moon bring things to light that will come upon thee. Behold, they have become like stubble: fire has consumed them: there is not a red-hot coal to warm themselves, a hearth-fire to sit before. So is it with thy people, for whom thou hast laboured: thy partners in trade from thy youth, they wander away every one in his own direction; no one who brings salvation to thee." Hitzig and others adopt the simple rendering, "Persevere, then, with thine enchantments." It is indeed true, that in Leviticus 13:5 בּ עמד signifies "to remain standing by anything," i.e., to persevere with it, just as in Ezekiel 13:5 it signifies to keep one's standing in anything; in 2 Kings 23:3, to enter upon anything; and in Ecclesiastes 8:3, to engage in anything; but there is no reason for taking it here in any other sense than in Isaiah 47:13. Babylon is to draw near with all the processes of the black art, wherein בּאשׁר, according to our western mode of expression, equivalent to בּהם אשׁר, Ges. 123, 2*) it had been addicted to abundance of routine from its youth upwards (יגעאתּ with an auxiliary pathach for יגעתּ); possibly it may be of some use, possibly it will terrify, i.e., make itself so terrible to the approaching calamity, as to cause it to keep off. The prophet now sees in spirit how Babylon draws near, and how it also harasses itself to no purpose; he therefore follows up the עמדי־נא, addressed in pleno to Babylon, with a second challenge commencing with יעמדוּ־נא. Their astrologers are to draw near, and try that power over the future to which they lay claim, by bringing it to bear at once upon the approaching destruction for the benefit of Babylon. עצתיך is a singular form connected with a feminine plural suffix, such as we find in Psalm 9:15; Ezekiel 35:11; Ezra 9:15, connected with a masculine plural suffix. Assuming the correctness of the vowel-pointing, the singular appears in such cases as these to have a collective meaning, like the Arabic pl. fractus; for there is no ground to suppose that the Aramaean plural form ‛ētsâth is used here in the place of the Hebrew. Instead of שׁמים הברו (which would be equivalent to הברו אשׁרא, the keri reads שׁמים הברי, cutters up of the heavens, i.e., planners or dissectors of them, from hâb, dissecare, resecare (compare the rabbinical habhârâh, a syllable, i.e., segmentum vocabuli, and possibly also the talmudic 'ēbhârı̄m, limbs of a body). The correction proposed by Knobel, viz., chōbherē, from châbhār, to know, or be versed in, is unnecessary. Châzâh b' signifies here, as it generally does, to look with pleasure or with interest at anything; hence Luther has rendered it correctly, die Sternkucker (Eng. ver. star-gazers). They are described still further as those who make known with every new moon (lechŏdâshı̄m, like labbeqârı̄m, every morning, Isaiah 33:2, etc.), things which, etc. מאשׁר is used in a partitive sense: out of the great mass of events they select the most important, and prepare a calendar or almanack (ἀλμενιχιακά in Plutarch) for the state every month. But these very wise men cannot save themselves, to say nothing of others, out of the power of that flame, which is no comforting coal-fire to warm one's self by, no hearth-fire (Isaiah 44:16) to sit in front of, but a devouring, eternal, i.e., peremptory flame (Isaiah 33:14). The rendering adopted by Grotius, Vitringa, Lowth, Gesenius, and others, "non supererit pruna ad calendum," is a false one, if only because it is not in harmony with the figure. "Thus shall they be unto thee," he continues in Isaiah 47:15, i.e., such things shall be endured to thy disgrace by those about whom thou hast wearied thyself (אשׁר equals בּהם אשׁר). The learned orders of the Chaldeans had their own quarter, and enjoyed all the distinction and privileges of a priestly caste. What follows cannot possibly be understood as relating to these masters of astrology and witchcraft, as Ewald supposes; for, according to the expression שׁחרהּ in Isaiah 47:11, they would be called שׁחריך. Moreover, if they became a prey of the flames, and therefore were unable to flee, we should have to assume that they were burned while taking flight (Umbreit). סחריך are those who carried on commercial intercourse with the great "trading city" (Ezekiel 17:4), as Berossos says, "In Babylon there was a great multitude of men of other nations who had settled in Chaldea, and they lived in disorder, like the wild beasts;" compare Aeschylus, Pers. 52-3, Βαβυλὼν δ ̓ ἡ πολύχρυσος πάμμικτον ὄχλον πέμπει. All of these are scattered in the wildest flight, אל־עברו אישׁ, every one on his own side, viz., in the direction of his own home, and do not trouble themselves about Babylon.

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